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EHC Needs Assessment

An Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment is an assessment of a child or young person’s education, health and care needs. It is the first step to getting an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan).

An EHC needs assessment should identify a child or young person’s special educational needs.

Schools are often able to meet the needs of children through SEN support, but sometimes a child or young person needs a more intensive level of specialist help that cannot be met from the resources available to schools and other settings.

In these circumstances your child’s school or setting can ask your local authority for an EHC needs assessment for your child. You can also request this yourself. This assessment may lead to your child getting an EHC plan.

EHC assessment timescales

There are several timescales called ‘statutory timescales’ set out in the SEN Code of Practice. Local authorities and other organisations must follow these.

From the point when an assessment is requested until the final EHC plan is issued, the process must take no more than 20 weeks. There are some exemptions to this such as school holiday dates – see the Code of Practice for these.

The EHC assessment and preparation of the plan must be completed as soon as possible. Local authorities must tell you whether they will carry out an EHC needs assessment. This must be within six weeks from when they receive a request for one.

Local authorities will request information from others such as therapists or doctors as part of the assessment process. They must respond within a maximum of six weeks from the date of the request.
Following an assessment, a local authority may decide not to issue an EHC plan. They must inform you of this within a maximum of 16 weeks from the date of the request for an EHC needs assessment. They should also give reasons for this decision and advice for what steps to take next.

If they agree to issue an EHC plan, a draft is issued and you must be given at least 15 days to give your views on this. You have a say on what school or setting you would like your child or young person to attend.

The final EHC plan must be issued within 20 weeks.

Requesting an EHC Needs Assessment

An EHC needs assessment is carried out by the Local Authority (LA). 

You can ask your LA to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an EHC plan. A young person can request an assessment themselves if they are aged 16 to 25. A request can also be made by anyone else who thinks an assessment may be necessary, including:

  • doctors
  • health visitors
  • teachers
  • parents

When asked, the LA must carry out an EHC needs assessment if:

  • the child or young person has or may have special educational needs (“SEN”); and
  • they may need special educational provision to be made through an EHC plan

This is set out in law (section 36(8) of the Children and Families Act 2014).

The Local Offer has a page about Education, Health and Care needs assessments that explains how to make your request.

You should keep a record of your request and the date you made it.

If the LA decide to carry out an assessment, you may be asked for any reports from your child’s school, nursery, or childminder, doctors’ assessments of your child and /or a letter from you about your child’s needs.

The local authority will tell you within six weeks whether an EHC assessment is going to be carried out.

Conducting an EHC Needs Assessment

If the LA agrees to carry out an assessment of a child or young person's needs, they will need information to understand what the needs are, the provision required to meet those needs and the outcomes expected to be achieved by the child or young person.

The LA has a legal duty to carry out the assessment process, so they cannot ask a school or college to carry out the assessment for them, nor can they ask for any part of the assessment to be paid for (for example, an educational psychologist's report).  The LA must seek advice from a range of people, including as a minimum:

  • the child’s parent or the young person
  • educational advice (usually from the headteacher or principal)
  • medical advice and information from a health care professional
  • advice from an educational psychologist
  • advice and information in relation to social care
  • advice and information from any other person the local authority thinks appropriate
  • where the child or young person is in or beyond year 9, advice and information in relation to provision to assist the child or young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living 
  • advice and information from any person the child’s parent or young person reasonably requests that the local authority seek advice from

The LA is legally required to seek all of this information as a minimum.

If a child or young person is hearing impaired and or visually impaired the educational advice must come from a suitably qualified person.

The LA should consider whether a social care assessment or health assessment is also needed.

A parent or young person can ask the LA to seek advice from anyone within education, health or social care, as long as it is a reasonable request. This can include a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist or someone from SET CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

A request would be considered reasonable where, for example, a child or young person has been identified as needing an assessment already and they are on a waiting list, or where the school, college or other professionals have said this advice may be needed.

It is best to request that a particular professional is approached in writing (either in a letter or an email) so that you have a record of your request. If the LA do not agree to your request, you can complain.

If the LA decide not to conduct an EHC Needs Assessment, you will be given the right of appeal.  We have a page for Appealing an LA's decision not to secure an EHC Needs Assessment

Deciding whether an EHC plan is needed

After the local authority has made its assessment – which must involve you and your child fully in the process – it will decide whether an EHC plan is necessary. 

If they decide an EHCP is not needed, they must tell you within 16 weeks of the date they received a request for an assessment.

You should receive a letter explaining the reason for this decision and the next possible steps.  If you need more information or do not understand, you can ask to speak to the EHC Assessment Officer involved and they should be able to help you and offer appropriate next steps based on your circumstances.

You have the right to appeal the decision. We have a page for Appealing a Local Authority's decision about an EHC Plan.

Preparing an EHC Plan

If the local authority decides an EHC plan is needed, they should work closely with you and your child to make sure the plan takes account of your views, wishes and feelings. Once the plan has been written, a draft will be sent to you which must not contain the name of the school or other setting your child will attend.

You will be given 15 days to comment on the draft and you can ask for a meeting to discuss it if you want one. At that point you will also be able to request a specific school, or other setting, you want your child to attend. This could be a mainstream school or special school. Your local authority has 20 weeks from the request for the EHC needs assessment to issue the final plan. You can find out more about how to check a draft plan here

Where a nursery, school or college is named in an EHC plan, they must admit the child or young person. The headteacher or principal of the school, college or other institution named in the EHC plan should ensure those teaching or working with your child or young person are aware of their needs and have arrangements in place to meet them. Institutions should also ensure teachers and lecturers monitor and review your child or young person’s progress during a year.

Once an EHC plan has been finalised, your local authority must ensure the SEN support in section F of the plan is provided. The health service must ensure the health support in section G is provided.

The local authority must review your child’s EHC plan at least every 12 months. That review must include working with you and your child and asking you what you think and what you want to happen and a meeting which you must be invited to.