What is an EHC needs assessment?
This brings together advice from families and practitioners about the education, health and care needs of your child or young person, and the support they will need to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.
There should be a ‘person-centred’ approach which puts your child or young person at the heart of the process so they can take part in discussions and decisions. They should be enabled to say what they have done, what they are interested in and what outcomes they are seeking in the future.
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:
When carrying out an EHC needs assessment the local authority should seek views and information from the child using appropriate methods, which might include observation for a very young child, or the use of different methods of communication such as the Picture Exchange Communication System. (9.45)
What happens during assessment?
You will have already provided your views (and those of your child or young person) by completing the family advice form when assessment was requested. You can send any new information, including any recent letters or reports that were not available previously.
The Family Services Team at the local authority will ask a number of other people for information about your child or young person. This is called ‘advice’ and should include information about:
- your child or young person’s education, health and care needs;
- the desired outcomes for your child or young person;
- 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 carers (or the young person)
- your child or young person’s education setting
- an Educational psychologist, who will usually arrange to see your child or young person in their setting.
- health professionals involved with your child or young person. For example, this might include a Paediatrician, Speech and language therapist, Physiotherapist or Occupational therapist
- Social care staff
- anyone else relevant who you ask the local authority to contact, provided they consider reasonable (for example their GP, or a service provider you feel might have some relevant information)
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:
The educational psychologist should consult any other psychologists known to be involved with the child or young person (9.49)
If your child or young person has either a vision or hearing impairment the educational advice and information must be given after consultation with a suitably qualified person.
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.
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:
The evidence and advice submitted by those providing it should be clear, accessible and specific. They should provide advice about outcomes relevant for the child or young person’s age and phase of education and strategies for their achievement…They may comment on the amount of provision they consider a child or young person requires and local authorities should not have blanket policies which prevent them from doing so. (9.51)
Advice and information requested by the local authority must be provided within six weeks of the request, and should be provided more quickly wherever possible, to enable a timely process (9.52)
What if we won’t be seeing our health service provider within the assessment timeframe?
Advice and information requested by the local authority must be provided within six weeks of the request (subject to only a few exceptions outlined in section 9.42 of the SEND Code of Practice 2015).
Usually the health practitioner will use information they already have about your child, however things may have changed for your child and you believe the information is out of date. You could contact your health service provider to explain, and ask if the appointment can be brought forward to enable up-to-date advice to be provided within their 6-week deadline.
You may find that the local authority finalise the EHC plan without this advice in order to meet the lawful timescale, and agree to amend the plan when the advice is received.
How can I request specialist advice from a service, within the EHC needs assessment process?
Under s6 of the SEND Regulations 2014, the local authority must seek advice and information from anyone you request – provided the request is deemed as ‘reasonable’. This might be from an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech and language therapist, or from CAMHS, for example.
Where the local authority decline to seek this advice (that they do not agree it is reasonable to do so), you could write (or email) them with your concerns, and include any information which helps to evidence your request.
When the local authority issues an EHC plan, you will have the right to mediation and appeal. These routes provide you with the opportunity to challenge the contents of the plan. You can highlight where you believe the assessment has not identified all of the needs, and that further specialist assessment is needed. Include any reports or letters which help to evidence your request.
If you make an appeal, it could be helpful when lodged, to request ‘telephone case management’. You can ask the tribunal to consider any assessment gaps and if the Judge agrees with you, they may ask the local authority to secure the additional advice ahead of the hearing.
Read more about telephone case management within our ‘Appealing to the SEND Tribunal’ information.
More information about how to raise concerns about a service or decision in our ‘Raising concerns’ page.
Can I submit a private assessment or diagnosis report?
Yes. Your views are important as you know your child best. It is also vital your child’s views, wishes and feelings are taken into account.
Sometimes practitioners have conflicting views about how to support a child or young person, and the local authority will be using their best judgement when working through this specialist advice.
It can be helpful to also share the reasons you decided to get a private assessment/diagnosis, and where advice differs from the local authority or school assessment information think about how you can explain the importance for it to be taken into account when carrying out the assessment, for example does the practitioner have specific relevant expertise?
When does the EHC needs assessment end?
If the local authority decides an EHC plan is not necessary they must notify you or your young person, the educational setting and health provider within 16-weeks of the original request for assessment.
If the local authority decides an EHC plan is necessary, they must prepare a draft plan and allow enough time for you to respond to the draft so that they can finalise the plan by the overall time limit of 20-weeks.
Read our EHC timeline (opens PDF)
What can I do if these deadlines pass?
These are legal timescales and local authorities are expected to comply.
If you are unhappy a timescale has not been met you could get in touch with the Family Services team to find out what is causing the delay. You could complain to the local authority (LA) and, if you are dissatisfied with the response, complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Where a practitioner has recommended provision in their report, this could be put in place now ahead of the EHC plan being finalised. There may however be instances where a setting will need to discuss additional help from the local authority to be able to meet the needs.
Read script of recording (opens PDF)
Read script of recording (opens pdf)