EHC needs assessment

Information about Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment, which is sometimes called statutory assessment, for children in early years settings or at school.


It covers both children in early years settings and children and young people of school age.

The EHC needs assessment

An EHC needs assessment is a detailed look at the special educational needs (SEN) of a child or young person and the support he or she may need in order to learn.

Local authorities are responsible for carrying out EHC needs assessments under the Children and Families Act 2014.

The needs assessment brings together information about:

  • what your child can and cannot do
  • the special help they need.

It includes information from:

  • you
  • your child
  • the early years' setting or school
  • other professionals who work with or support your child.

The assessment is to see if your child needs an EHC plan.

The process

The school or early years setting can often give your child help through SEN support. This means that the school makes additional or different provision from that provided to most other pupils to meet their needs. Sometimes other professionals will give advice or support to help your child learn.

Some children need more help than the school can provide. If your child does not make progress despite everything the school has tried, an EHC needs assessment might be the next step.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

"In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, the local authority should consider whether there is evidence that despite the early years provider, school or post-16 institution having taken relevant and purposeful action to identify, assess and meet the special educational needs of the child or young person, the child or young person has not made expected progress." (9.14).

The local authority will look at:

  • your child's attainments and rate of progress
  • their special educational needs.
  • what has already been done
  • the difference that support has made
  • your child's physical, emotional and social development and health needs.

The law states that if your child has or may have special needs and may need provision to be made via an EHC plan, the local authority must conduct an EHC needs assessment. This means that you do not have to prove that an EHC plan is definitely necessary to obtain an assessment, you just have to show it may be necessary. If you think your child needs more help than the school can provide, you can ask for an assessment.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

"A local authority must conduct an assessment of education, health and care needs when it considers that it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan." (9.3).

Some children and young people will have needs that clearly require an EHC needs assessment and EHC plan. Immediately the local authority is aware that this is the case it must start the process without delay.

You can find out more about the criteria that local authorities should follow in the SEND Code of Practice sections 9.3 and 9.14 to 9.16.

Requesting an EHC needs assessment

The following people can request an EHC assessment:

  • parents - by writing to the local authority
  • a young person over the age of 16 but under the age of 25
  • the early years setting or school, but only after talking with you first.

It is always a good idea to talk to the school or early years setting before asking for an EHC needs assessment. We can help you make your request.

Other people, such as your doctor or a health visitor, can tell the local authority that they think your child needs an assessment.

Local authority decision

As soon as the local authority gets a request for an EHC needs assessment they must tell you about it.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

"In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, local authorities should pay particular attention to the views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parent, or the young person." (9.12)

The local authority has up to six weeks to decide whether to make a needs assessment. During this time it may ask you, the school and other professionals for information.

It will look at all the information and must then tell you whether it has decided to start the EHC needs assessment immediately or that an EHC needs assessment is not necessary.

Advice that is already available

Sometimes advice and information is already available because other professionals have been working with your child.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

"The local authority must not seek further advice if such advice has already been provided (for any purpose) and the person providing the advice, the local authority and the child's parent or the young person are all satisfied that it is sufficient for the assessment process. In making this decision, the local authority and the person providing the advice should ensure the advice remains current." (9.47).

The outcome

The outcome of the EHC needs assessment will either be that your child or young person can be supported with additional Special Educational Needs Support, or that they need the additional support of an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

An EHC plan is a legal document written by the local authority. It describes the special educational needs that a child or young person has and the help that they will be given to meet them. It also includes the health and care provision that is needed.

Sometimes the local authority will decide that your child has special educational needs that can be met through SEN support. If this is the case the local authority must tell you of its decision within 16 weeks of receiving a request for an EHC needs assessment. The local authority must also tell you about your right of appeal.

If the local authority decides an EHC plan is necessary it must first write a draft plan. It will send you the draft EHC plan and copies of the reports so that you can read it all. You should check that everything you think is important has been included and that you agree with the outcomes and the proposed provision. The local authority will also ask you which school you prefer your child to go to.

You have 15 days to make comments, to ask for a meeting or accept the draft plan.

Note that if you do not reply within 15 days the local authority may assume that you agree with the draft plan.

The last stage is for the local authority to send you the final EHC plan. If you are still unhappy with the plan or cannot agree with the local authority on a school, you have a right to go to mediation and/or to appeal.

If you need help at any stage you can contact us.

Agreement to issue an EHCP

The SEND Code of Practice says:

"Local authorities must consult the child and the child's parent or the young person throughout the process of assessment and production of an EHC plan. They should also involve the child as far as possible in this process. The needs of the individual child and young person should sit at the heart of the assessment and planning process." (9.21).

The local authority will write to you to tell you what will happen and ask for your views. Your views and your child's views are really important.

The local authority will ask a number of other people for information about your child. This is called 'advice' and it should include information about:

  • your child's education, health and care needs
  • the desired outcomes for your child
  • the special educational, health and care provision that might be required to meet their needs and achieve the desired outcomes.

The local authority must ask for advice and information from:

  • parents (or the young person)
  • your child's early years setting or school
  • an educational psychologist
  • health professionals who work with your child, for example:
    • pediatrician
    • speech and language therapist
    • physiotherapist
    • occupational therapist
  • social care staff
  • anyone else you ask them to contact who may be able to give relevant advice.

If your child has a vision or hearing impairment the local authority must also seek information and advice from a suitably qualified teacher.

The local authority should also try to find out your child's views. You, the school and other professionals may be able to help with this.

If you think your child needs someone to help them give their views you can ask the children's rights team for more information about this.

You will have the chance to discuss your child with everyone involved in the needs assessment and you will receive a copy of all the reports when the needs assessment is finished.

If you want information, advice or support during the EHC needs assessment, please contact us.

You can find out more about advice and information for EHC needs assessments in the SEND Code of Practice sections 9.45 - 9.52.

Refusal to issue an EHCP

The local authority must tell you why it thinks that an EHC needs assessment is not needed. It must also tell you about:

  • your right of appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal and the time limit for appealing
  • independent disagreement resolution and mediation
  • how to get further information, advice or support.

If you disagree with the decision we can explain your options to you.

Timescales

  1. The local authority receives a request for an EHC needs assessment. The authority must tell parents about this request. This is the start date.
  2. The local authority decides whether an EHC needs assessment is needed. The authority must tell parents about its decision within six weeks of the start date.
  3. The EHC needs assessment takes place. This starts as soon as the decision is made.
  4. Either the local authority tells the parents of the decision not to issue an EHC plan. Or the local authority sends a draft EHC plan to parents within 16 weeks of the start date.
  5. Parents must respond to the draft EHC plan. They can:
    • agree that the draft is adequate
    • ask for changes
    • ask for a meeting.
  6. Parents have the right at this point to state a preference for a school or early years setting within 15 days of receiving the draft EHC plan.
  7. The local authority consults with the school or early years setting within 15 days of parents' response to the draft EHC plan.
  8. The local authority issues the final EHC plan within 20 weeks of the start date/

Sometimes this timescale can be different. See SEND Code of Practice section 9.42.

If you don't agree with the local authority

At any stage you can ask to talk to a member of the local authority's staff. This will usually be the person named in the letter the local authority sends to you when it receives a request for an EHC needs assessment.

If the local authority decides that an EHC needs assessment and an EHC plan are necessary for your child, they must carry out the assessment and issue a plan whatever your views are.

We can give you impartial information and advice about the options open to you, and support you through the process.

You also have a right to request independent disagreement resolution and, in some circumstances, mediation. You can find out more about disagreement resolution and mediation in the SEND Code of Practice Chapter 9.

Transferring from a statement of special educational needs

Between September 2014 and September 2018 local authorities will gradually transfer statements of SEN to the new system. When this happens for your child an EHC plan transfer review will take place. The review will involve an EHC needs assessment. You, your child or the young person must be invited to a meeting as part of this transfer review.

Your child's existing statement, review reports and other information may be sufficient for the needs assessment as long as you, the local authority and those providing the advice agree that they are. If there is not agreement that they are sufficient, the local authority must gather more information and advice.

Further information, advice and support

You can read about EHC needs assessments in the SEND Code of Practice Chapter 9.

The Local Offer includes more information on the local arrangements for EHC needs assessments.

We can give you:

  • information about EHC needs assessments
  • advice and support during the process of assessment
  • details of the local arrangements for independent support
  • details of other organisations, support groups and services that may be of help
  • information, advice and support about your rights to make a complaint, seek independent disagreement resolution or mediation.

Contact us if you need any further help or advice.