Frequently asked questions (EHC plans)

1. What is an EHC plan?

An EHC plan describes your child’s educational, health and care needs, and the help they will get to achieve their ambitions.

It is a legal document written by the local authority for children and young people whose needs cannot be met by the support that is usually available at their school or college.

2. Does my child need a diagnosis to get an EHC plan?

A diagnosis is not required to secure an EHC plan. It is about identifying the needs and whether these needs can only be met with an EHC plan. Some children and young people with an EHC plan will have a diagnosis and some won’t.

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)

The local authority will expect to see evidence of the steps taken to identify and support needs; the impact of targeted support; and that school that have done all they can to help your child make progress across all areas of need.

Health colleagues are required to provide advice during an EHC needs assessment within six weeks of a request. As the timescale is set in law, you may find the advice provided (about health needs and provision) may not include a confirmed diagnosis – as this can sometimes take longer to determine. There will be further opportunities to update the EHC plan with new information.

3. I’m not certain whether my child needs an EHC plan.

Most children with special educational needs will have their needs met through extra support provided by the education setting. This is known as SEN Support and can include a wide range of provision and interventions. You can read more about SEN Supportin our web pages.

However, if an educational setting has exhausted all the possible support options and a child/young person is still not progressing as expected it might be appropriate to request an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment (the first stage)

The local authority will expect to see evidence of what, if any, progress has been made and that school that have done everything they can to help your child make progress.

If your young person with SEN is not in education but wants to be, requesting an EHC needs assessment may be an appropriate first step.

4. I hear it’s really hard to get an EHC plan?

The 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)

Where the setting has exhausted all possible support options, or is unable to maintain the required level of support without the help from the local authority, they can use this information as evidence within their request for an EHC needs assessment.

Chapter 9.14 of the Code of Practice details the information a local authority must consider when deciding whether to assess.

The Code also says that a local authority, whilst applying their own criteria when deciding whether to assess, ‘must be prepared to depart from those criteria where there is a compelling reason to do so…’ (9.16)

As assessment is the first step towards a plan, see also response to question 15.

5. Is it only nursery/school/college that can request an EHC Needs Assessment?

Usually a request will be made by the setting (to the local authority). However, as a parent, you have the right to request an EHC needs assessment directly with the Family Services Team.

As the educational setting will be requested to submit information within 15 days, we would recommend you let school know you have, or are planning to make a request.

Where your child is aged between 16 and 25, they also have a right to request an EHC needs assessment.

6. What information do we need to make a request?

Making a direct request is easy, you can do this by contacting the Family Services Team in writing, by phone or email. 

The local authority will take some basic information from you including your child’s name, date of birth, where they go to school; and family information including address, and contact details for you and anyone else that has parental responsibility.

You will be sent a Family Views form to complete within 15 days. 

7. How long does the process take?

From start to finish the process is 20 weeks. The initial stage where the local authority decides whether to carry out an assessment takes six weeks. EHC Timeline(PDF).

8. The local authority are refusing to assess, what can I do?

It is really helpful to find out why the local authority reached this decision. You can ask them for a meeting, including school to discuss their reasons.

It could be that they have identified some support that school can put in place without an EHC plan for example.

You have the right to mediation and appeal, your letter will explain this and we can offer further advice and support.

Read more our ‘refusal to assess’ leaflet (PDF).

9. What do I need to include in my family views form?

We have some useful step-by-step information on our family views page.

10. I have learning difficulties myself, would I be able to get some support if I need to?

We can support you throughout the process of an EHC plan. You can contact us by phone, text or email to get some help.

We would also recommend you let the local authority know about your difficulties, as you may find it helpful to meet with them to get your views across in person (see below Q17 co-production meetings)

11. I’m not very confident at saying what I want to say, can someone say it for me?

We can help you with preparing for a meeting, sometimes we may attend with you and would always speak with you firstly about what you want to say.

Our aim would be to help your build your confidence, so that you feel able to participate in meetings.

You could take a friend or family member along for support, but always let school (or the local authority) know who will be going so they can make sure the room can accommodate all of you.

12. When will I hear back from the Family Services Team with a decision to assess?

The local authority will let you know their decision in writing, within 6 weeks of the request.

13. How do I know when the Educational Psychologist will be assessing my child?

They will contact you before seeing your child within the first six weeks (the assessment phase) and let you know when your child will be assessed.

You can ask any questions about what their assessment will entail.

14. I won’t be seeing my child’s health practitioner within the EHC timescale?

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 professional 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 EHC timescale, and agree to amend the plan later when the advice is received.

Read the information from the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) about the requirements for providing Health advice within six weeks.

15. Why are the local authority contacting social care?

The local authority must seek advice from social care as part of the assessment process.

Where any related social care needs are identified, these would become part of an EHC plan for a child.

Any health or social care provision which educates or trains your child must be included within educational provision (section F of an EHC plan).

Read more about social care.

16. Will my child get a plan at the end of the EHC needs assessment?

An EHC needs assessment will not always lead to an EHC plan.

If the local authority decides an EHC plan is not necessary, they will write to you to explain why and include information about your rights to mediation and appeal.

Information gathered as part of the assessment will indicate ways in which the setting can meet your child’s needs without an EHC plan.

17. What are ‘outcomes’?

An outcome is what you expect to be achieved within an agreed timescale. Read more about outcomes in an EHC plan.

The SEND Code of Practice says…

‘Outcomes will usually set out what needs to be achieved by the end of a phase or stage of education in order to enable the child or young person to progress successfully to the next phase or stage…’ (9.68)

‘An outcome can be defined as the benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention… it should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART). When an outcome is focused on education or training, it will describe what the expected benefit will be to the individual as a result of the educational or training intervention provided.’ (9.66)

‘When agreeing outcomes, it is important to consider both what is important tothe child or young person – what they themselves want to be able to achieve – and what is important forthem as judged by others with the child or young person’s best interests at heart. ‘(9.67)

18. What is a co-production meeting?

When you receive the draft plan, you will have 15 days to suggest any changes you would like to be considered and you can request to meet with them, this is sometimes referred to as a co-production meeting.

This gives you an opportunity to meet with the Family Services Co-ordinator (and any other professionals you would like to invite), to discuss provision and go over the draft plan, including requesting any changes you would like to make.

Ahead of the meeting it can be helpful to prepare notes about any questions you have or the changes you would like to request.

19. Can my child come along to a meeting?

Your child should be part of any planning or decision-making.

The local authority should involve your child as far as possible in this process. They must take into account their views as well as yours.

Your child may need help to express their views, for example from a family member or practitioner already working with them. Consider alternative ways they can share their views, pictures or a video for example. Read our section ‘child/young person’s voice.

Our service can help children and young people directly with any questions they might have, getting their views across and support preparing for and at meetings too.

20. Help, I don’t understand the draft EHC plan?

Read our guidance about the draft EHC plan.

We can help you with any questions you have about the draft plan. 

21. How do I speak to the person who wrote my child’s Plan?

The letter accompanying the EHC plan should have contact information included.

Alternatively, you can call or email the Family Services team.

22. How do I choose a school?

Have a look at our information:  Choosing and naming a school in an EHC plan.

23. When will my child’s plan be reviewed?

The local authority will   review the EHC planevery 12 months, or earlier if necessary (opens PDF). This mustbe done in partnership with you and your child or the young person, and must take account of your views, wishes and feelings.

The local authority mustdecide whether to keep the plan as it is, make changes, or cease to maintain it within four weeks of the review meeting. You have a right of appeal if the local authority proposes to cease the EHC plan.

For some young people an EHC plan will continue until they are 25. However the plan will stop if the young person:

  • goes to university
  • gets a job
  • tells their local authority they no longer want their EHC plan, or
  • the local authority decides the outcomes have been achieved and Special Educational Provision is no longer necessary

24. What happens if my child moves to another local authority?

If you plan to move to another local authority area you should contact the ‘old’ and the ’new’ local authorities so the support specified in the EHC plan will be in place. The ‘new’ authority will amend the plan and name the new school or college.

The ‘old’ local authority must transfer the EHC plan on the day of the move, as long as it has had 15 working days notice.

25. What happens to the EHC plan once my child leaves education?

An EHC plan is only for young people with special educational needs. Training can be considered an educational need, for example an apprenticeship or internship.

If your child is no longer in further education (or training) or moves onto University, the local authority will likely cease the EHC plan at the next annual review. 

26. My young person is going to university, will their EHC plan continue?

No, EHC plans are only for young people in further education, and will cease when they go into higher education.

27. What if the provision in section F of a plan is not being made?

The first step will be to raise your concerns with the educational setting. There may be reasons why support has been changed or delayed which you are reassured about. 

Once an EHC plan is finalised the setting will set interim targets linked to the ‘outcomes’, this is key as enables progress to be reviewed throughout the year. If you are unsure what these targets are, you could arrange to meet with the SENCO.

If you have discussed with the setting and still have some concerns that provision in a plan is not being made, you should let the local authority know.

In law, it is the local authority’s duty to secure the special educational provision in an EHC plan, this means to  ensure that provision is made

Our raising concerns information takes you through the various steps you can take if you are not happy with the support your child is getting, including complaining to school or the local authority.

Read the local authority information what to do if provision in a plan is not being made ‘Education, health and care plan provision: raising concerns about delivery.’

IPSEA have some useful guidance including an example letter, if you have been unable to resolve by contacting school/the local authority.