In this section

EHC needs assessments

6 mins read

The information on this page is for families in England only. I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

An Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment is the first step to getting an 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.

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 EHC needs assessment to work out how much help they need.

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 EHC needs assessment 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 preparing 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.

After the assessment

Once the assessment has been carried out, the local authority must decide whether to issue an EHC plan.

If the local authority decides to issue an EHC plan

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

Find out more about the EHC draft plan.

  If the local authority refuses to give your 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. Find out more about appeals and tribunals.

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. See our page on appeals and tribunals.

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

Related information

Information for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Read our information about education in Wales.

Find out about the system of support for children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland on the NI Education Authority website or Senac (special educational needs advice centre).

In Scotland, the system of support for children with additional support needs is called additional support for learning. You can read more about it on the Enquire website.