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Education Legal services for Families, in particular, Special Educational Needs & Disability
Education Lawyers

EHC Needs Assessment FAQs

Entering the world of special educational needs can be daunting. It’s filled with acronyms and strange language that can make you feel you’re lost in the dark. We’re happy to provide some free information that can help about the EHC Needs Assessment.

EHC Needs Assessment FAQs

What is an Education, Health and Care Plan?

 An Education, Health and Care Plan, also known as an EHC plan or an EHCP, is a legal document that sets out the needs and provision to be made for a child with special educational needs.

The local council (also known as a local authority) that has responsibility for education, is the public body that draws up an EHCP.

It is governed by Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and its regulations. Statutory Guidance is set out in the SEND Code of Practice 2015. An EHCP must comply with the legislation.

Additionally, other guiding legislation includes the Education Act 1998 and The Equalities Act 2010

How do I apply for an EHC Needs Assessment?

In law, you don’t “apply for an EHCP”, you apply for an EHC needs assessment. You do this by contacting your local authority SEND department. You should be able to find all their contact details on your council’s Local Offer website.

It’s also a good idea to speak to your child’s school or setting first. They should be able to tell you how they think your child is progressing and you can discuss your concerns about their needs.

While it’s perfectly possible to apply for an Education, Health and Care needs assessment yourself, you may feel you need support.

You need to gather together all the information you have about your child’s education, health and social care needs to help you write your parental request for EHC Needs Assessment. If you feel you need our support, just get in touch. It doesn’t “lock you in” to using paid legal help all the way through, but it may help you get started in the best way possible.

Simply give us a call or drop us an email and we can talk you through the options available.

When do I know it’s time to apply for an EHC needs assessment?

It can be very worrying when your child or young person isn’t making sufficient progress at school or college because of a learning difficulty or disability. If you do not believe the educational setting is able to provide adequate or appropriate support for your child, you should consider requesting an Education, Health and Care needs assessment. There is no specific or set time to do this. However we would advise you do it sooner if your child is struggling in school.

If you suspect your child may have an additional learning need, you should speak to their school first of all and find out how they are doing. Their class teacher and the SENCO are the best people to have an initial conversation with.

Your school is required by law to inform you if they think your child has additional learning needs. They are expected to work with you in a collaborative way to help your child, keeping you up to date of any progress.

If your child is already on the SEN register at school, they should be already having a certain amount of interventions using the “Assess, Plan, Do, Review” (APDR) process. However, this “circular” cycle is not simply supposed to go on and on if your child is not showing a sufficient amount of improvement.

The SEND Code of Practice states that, “Where, despite the setting having taken relevant and purposeful action to identify, assess and meet the special educational needs of the child, the child has not made expected progress, the setting should consider requesting an Education, Health and Care needs assessment”

However, your child does not need to have gone through any cycles of APDR if you feel their needs are sufficiently severe to need the support  which can only be provided to your child through an education, health and care plan. This is especially the case if they have not yet started school. Or, it may be that they have had a late diagnosis in secondary years or at college and now need specialist support.

An EHCP can be applied for from the time your child is born if it is clear they will need significant support to learn, for example, if they have a genetic disease or condition that is evident early on.

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Can my child have an EHC plan just for health or social care issues?

Although an EHCP plan covers education, health and social care, there must be an educational need at the core. However, a health need often brings learning needs, so this should always be considered.

My school says my child won’t qualify for an EHC assessment. Should I still apply?

Local authorities often turn down applications for reasons that are unlawful. For example, your child does NOT have to have been through a certain number of SEN Support cycles before you can apply. You do NOT need permission from the school, and your child does NOT have to be so many years or levels of ability behind their peers to be eligible.

Despite this reasonably low bar to qualify for a statutory assessment, a large percentage of applications are initially refused.

If this has happened to you, we would strongly advise you to appeal the decision. It is important that you do not delay, as there is a time deadline for appeals to the SEND Tribunal.

First, the law requires that you either go through a mediation process (the appeal deadline allows for this) or obtain a mediation certificate saying you do not wish to go through mediation. This may be the case if your relationship with the LA has broken down and you do not think it will result in a favourable result. Or if perhaps you have no evidence to present to the local authority to persuade it to change its decision.

After this, you can lodge an appeal with the First Tier (SEND) Tribunal.   

The team at Education Lawyers can help you with all parts of this process. Get in touch so we can have an initial discussion of your case and where you’re up to. Let us take the strain.

Call us on 01452 555166, use our contact form, or ask for a Call-Back

Who applies for the assessment?

As well as the child’s parent, or the young person themselves if they are over 16, the law says that any relevant adult close to the child can make an application for an EHC needs assessment. This includes your child’s school, nursery or college, their health visitor, doctor, or social care professional. It also includes someone close to you who is your advocate or supporter.

However, we would always advise that the application is made in the parent’s name (or the young person, if they are making their own application and aged over 16).

How long does the process take?

The process for an EHC needs assessment to the issuing of a plan should, by law, take no more than 20 weeks from start to issuing of a final EHC plan. The process is set out in the SEND Code of practice 2015

This consists of six weeks from the date the assessment request was received by the LA to a decision about whether or not to carry out a full assessment. After it decides to carry out a full need assessment, the LA has a set time limit to tell you whether it will issue a plan. It must decide within 16 weeks from the date it first received your request,

When a draft plan is issued, it’s vital you check it carefully to ensure it meets your child’s needs and is compliant with the law. We offer a fixed-price service called “MOT your EHCP” that can help with this. We thoroughly check the draft and suggest alterations or additions within the 15-day timeframe so you can take it back to the LA and request amendments. Read more about this here

If you are refused an assessment or a plan, you should appeal. If the plan issued isn’t acceptable, you should appeal this.

Education Lawyers can help at any stage. Find out how we can help here

What documents do I need?

 When you apply for an EHC Needs Assessment, the local authority has six weeks to make a decision on whether to go ahead with it from the date your application is received by the LA.

It is the LA’s responsibility to investigate and gather evidence to decide if your child requires a full EHC needs assessment from the evidence available.

The LA must look at a wide range of evidence and should include the family from the start. You will want to gather together any evidence you already have, such as medical letters or other reports your child already has regarding their needs. You are not expected to pay for additional private reports. However, you may wish to consider commissioning independent expert assessments, particularly from an Educational Psychologist.

Evidence the LA considers includes: the child or young person’s academic attainment or developmental milestones; their rate of progress; information about their SEND difficulties and how it affects their learning; what has already been done by the educational setting(s) to meet the child/young person’s additional needs, and what progress has been made as a result of these interventions (such as via the Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle)

They should also include evidence of any physical, emotional and social development, and health needs, and what has been done by other agencies such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), Speech and Language Therapists etc, to meet these needs.

If the young person is aged over 18, it must also be considered if they will need more time than non-SEND young people to complete their education or training. This is because an EHCP can go up to age 25 if needed.

We often act for parents or carers from the very start of an application for an EHC needs assessment. If you would like us to do this for you, it’s easy to get in touch. Just give us a call on 01452. 555 166 or use our contact form


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