Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments

Information for families in England

Some children and young people with special educational needs may need more support than a mainstream education setting (schools, colleges, nurseries) can offer. These children may have to receive an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment to work out how much help they need.

An EHC needs assessment is the first step to getting an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. It is a legal process carried out by the local authority. It isn't to be confused with other assessments that teachers, your GP or other professionals may arrange for your child.

Who should have an EHC needs assessment?

The local authority must carry out an EHC needs assessment if they believe your child's special educational needs may require more help than a mainstream education setting can normally provide.

For example, your child may need a lot of adult support for most or all of the school day. They might need a large amount of help from specialist services, such as speech therapy. Your child may need to go to a special school where staff have the training and expertise to support their learning.

How does the process start?

The following people can make a formal request for an EHC needs assessment:

  • A parent.
  • A young person themselves if over 16.
  • A school or college.

If you are making the request yourself, you might find our request letter template useful.

The local authority will want to see evidence that your child needs more support for their special educational needs than a mainstream education setting can normally provide.

You should explain your child's difficulties, describe any extra support your child has already received and say why you feel your child needs more help. Our parent advisers have made a checklist that may help you think about what to say.

The local authority must tell you in writing within six weeks whether or not they are going to assess your child. See below for what to do if the local authority refuses to assess your child.

What happens during an EHC needs assessment?

The local authority gathers information about your child's needs from:

  • You and your child.
  • The nursery, school or college your child attends.
  • An educational psychologist.
  • Specialist teachers, if your child has a vision or hearing impairment.
  • Health and social care services.
  • Others whose views may be important.
  • For a child in Year 9 (age 14) or above, advice about prearing for adulthood and independent living.

Advice and information requested by the local authority should be provided within six weeks.

The local authority does not have to seek further information from professionals if this has been provided recently. However, any existing reports should meet the requirements of the assessment process. They must have detailed information about your child's needs, the support or provision they require, and the expected outcomes (how the support will make a difference to your child).

The local authority must help your family, including your child, to take part in the process. They must provide you with any information, advice and support you need to do this. 

If you have already provided information about your child as part of your request, you don't need to repeat this, but you can send in new information if you want to. You can send in other reports if you have them, for example a report from an independent professional. You can also ask the local authority to seek information about your child from someone who has not been contacted before. For example, you may want to ask if a speech and language therapist can assess your child. 

The local authority will gather information about your child's social care needs as part of the EHC needs assessment. If your family is not already getting support from children's services, you can ask your local authority to do a separate assessment to decide if you or your child need support at home or in the community For more information see our webpages on social care.

Receiving an EHC Plan

Once the assessment has been carried out, the local authority must decide whether to issue an EHC plan. See below for what to do if the local authority refuses to give your child an EHC plan.

An EHC plan is a legal document that describes a child's or young person's special educational, health and social care needs. Find out more about EHC plans.

At first you'll receive a draft EHC plan, and you have 15 days to put forward your views to the local authority about the contents of the plan. You can ask to meet with them and other people who gave advice as part of the EHC needs assessment process. This is your chance to ask questions if anything is unclear, check that the plan describes your child's needs accurately, or to say if you think anything in the plan should be changed.

You can say which school, college, or other educational institution you would like your child to go to. The local authority must tell you how to find out about schools and colleges. They must also consult the institution before naming it in the final EHC plan. You can also ask for a personal budget.

The final plan must be issued within a maximum of 20 weeks of the initial request.

What if the local authority refuses to do an assessment?

The local authority can refuse if they don't think your child needs an assessment. They may feel that there is not enough evidence that your child's difficulties are severe enough. Or they may decide that a mainstream education setting can provide all the support your child needs.

If your child has been refused an EHC needs assessment, you can appeal this decision to an independent tribunal within two months of the date on your decision letter, or one month from the date of the mediation certificate - whichever is later.

Contact our helpline on 0808 808 3555 or post us a query on Facebook for further advice.

What if the local authority refuses to give my child an EHC plan?

An EHC needs assessment does not always lead to a child or young person receiving an EHC plan. For example, the local authority might decide that the child's or young person's needs can be met by the school in other ways.

If the local authority are not going to make a plan, they must write to you within 16 weeks to tell you this. You will have the right to appeal, and the local authority must give you information about this.

Information for families in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales

If you live in Wales, read our information about the statementing process.

We also support Northern Ireland and Scotland. Give our helpline a call on 0808 808 3555 for information and advice on any aspect of raising a disabled child, or call your local contact. Find out our details in the In your area section.

Call our helpline

Any questions about support at school? How to get an EHC plan? What kind of school is best for my child? Call our freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 and talk to one of our education advisers.

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