Bright Heart

Bright Heart

We discuss EHCPs and EHC needs assessments and consider what the law says one is entitled to. We also consider when the process is delayed or refused and offer sources of help.

All about EHCPs

We receive many requests for help from anxious parents with respect to Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). 

We thought it would be helpful to parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) to cover the main aspects of EHCPs in a blog.

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The EHCP journey can be challenging. Don't be afraid to seek help.

What is an EHCP?

An EHCP or Education, Health and Care Plan is designed to assist children and young people (aged up to 25) who have special educational needs, including disabilities. These plans were introduced in 2014 and are implemented to improve the outcomes for children that require extra support and assistance in the current school system. A child or young person requires an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment in order to gain an EHCP.

EHCPs are a strategy to bring each aspect of health, social care, and education together to promote the best outcomes for children and young people. These assessments are written by local authorities (LAs) and replace the previous statement of special educational needs

Who can get an EHCP?

Children and young people with SEN up to the age of 25 can receive an EHCP if the child or young person’s needs cannot reasonably be provided through resources that are available at an early years provider, school or post-16 institution. It is expected that the majority of children and young people with SEN will not require an EHCP.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice (the “Code”) defines special educational needs (SEN) as follows:

A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.

A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she:

What is the process for getting an EHCP?

A parent who believes their child is eligible for an EHCP initiates the process by approaching their local authority (LA) with a request for an EHCP. The LA must then determine within 6 weeks whether to advance the process by carrying out an EHC needs assessment. In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, the LA should consider whether there is evidence that despite the early years provider, school or post-16 institution having taken relevant steps to meet the needs of the child or young person with SEN, expected progress has not been made.

Note that young people over the age of 16, as well as certain other professionals, for example a teacher, can also initiate the EHCP process.

The LA will determine whether or not an individual needs an EHC plan in place by carrying out an EHC needs assessment.

The EHC needs assessment may not result in an EHCP being issued. In this case, the report may decide that the child’s school or college can meet the needs of the student without one.

What is an EHC needs assessment?

An EHC needs assessment is the first step to securing an EHCP, following a request for an EHCP.  The process of an EHC needs assessment involves collating information and advice on a child or young person’s needs. Your LA carries this out.  A school or college cannot undertake the assessment or ask for payment for any part of it.

There is a list of information required to be set out in Regulation 6(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014. This includes, among others:

If your child is hearing or speech impaired, advice must also be sought from a qualified person.

If following an EHC needs assessment it is necessary for special educational provision to be made in accordance with an EHCP, the LA must then prepare one.

How long does it take to get an EHCP?

The process from the first request to a completed EHCP should take no longer than 20 weeks (other than in exceptional circumstances). A draft EHCP should be issued within 14 weeks to allow 15 days for a parent to study the draft and request a school or education provider to be named in it. The party named also has 15 days within which to respond to it being named in the EHCP.

The LA must respond within 6 weeks of an EHCP request to advise on whether it believes an EHC needs assessment is necessary.

If following an EHC needs assessment, the LA determines not to issue an EHCP, it must inform parents within 16 weeks from the EHCP request date.

See a useful summary of the EHCP timeline below:

Process for EHC application with statutory timescales (source: the Code)

What can I do if my child’s EHC needs assessment or EHCP is delayed or refused?


If your assessment is delayed, contact the LA to enquire about the reasons for the delay. If they fail to provide an explanation, contact your local SENDIASS (SEND Information Advice and Support Service) to seek advice and to help you understand what kind of support you should be getting.

The LA is required to send a draft plan within 14 weeks of the request for assessment and the completed EHCP within 20 weeks of the initial request. If it fails to do so, you may write a complaint addressed to the most senior person at the LA.

Refused EHC needs assessment

If a child or young person has or may have SEN and it may be necessary to have a special educational provision made in an EHCP, that child or young person is entitled to an EHC needs assessment, regardless of the level of attainment.  If the LA refuses the request for an EHC needs assessment, the parent or young person has the right to appeal to the First Tier Tribunal.

When considering an appeal from a parent or young person the First-tier Tribunal must have regard to the Code. The Tribunal will expect LAs and educational settings to be able to explain any relevant departure from the Code.

Refused EHCP (following an EHC needs assessment)

The LA should give reasons for refusal. It should also inform parents of the right to appeal this decision and the timeline for doing so. Appeals are made in the SEND Tribunal under section 51(2)(a) of the Children and Families Act .

Before an appeal, it is advisable, although not necessary, to speak to a mediation advisor. The advisor’s information should be included in the LA refusal letter. You should get a certificate to show you have done so. You can contact IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) to ask them how to prepare for the mediation process. The deadline by which the SEND Tribunal must receive your appeal is two months from the date of the LA letter or one month from the date of a mediation certificate.

You should state reasons for the appeal in your form and collect supportive evidence (teachers’ comments, documentation from school, previous assessments, advice from educational psychologists, your own observations) for your case. This can be used to support your case that the appropriate educational help for your child relies on the provision of an EHCP, and that without it the child’s needs are unlikely to be met. Submit the form as soon as possible. More information, together with email templates for information requests to build your case, can be found here.

How long does an EHC plan last?

Once received, an EHCP is reviewed annually to determine further needs or modifications to the plan.

A review meeting is organised between everyone involved in the child or young person’s education, including someone from the LA’s SEN department. The school may also invite other people, such as a speech and language therapist, advisory teacher, tutor or teaching assistant. The meeting will consider the progress made and include any recommendations for changes to the plan alongside setting targets. This process may also determine whether the child or young person still requires an EHCP.

Within four weeks of this meeting, the LA will make decisions based on the recommendations and either make amendments, leave it as it is, or end the plan.

What kind of support are you entitled to with an EHCP?

When you have an EHCP, your LA will set out the funding for your child. This is called a personal budget. This is typically arranged with the school, and money is paid directly to them to provide extra support and assistance in the school setting. Extra provision is typically delivered by one-to-one in-person support or via online tuition. Additional help is available at all curriculum levels from Reception to A-Level.

The personal budget is an amount of money that covers the cost of implementing the support and outcomes, as noted in the plan. This money is not available unless you have an EHCP.

In some cases, direct payment may be made to parents or caregivers to arrange this provision independently. The LA may determine which aspects of the money could be issued as a direct payment. Still, they can refuse this request if they deem the provision cannot be met appropriately. A refusal can also happen if the direct payment negatively affects other services provided by the EHCP.

Parents also have the right to choose an education provider to carry out the plan. They have the option to select a third-party provider that aligns with the EHCP and who can support them. This is a key part of the Code, which seeks to provide parents a greater say in their child’s education and how resources are allocated. You can arrange direct payment by your LA to the elected educational provider as agreed in the plan. 

special needs support
An EHCP paves the way for funding and support for your child

What are the different parts of an EHCP?

The EHCP must follow the code set out by Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014. The plan must include specific sections, and if the child is in Year 9 or above, this plan must also contain strategies to help them prepare for adult life and independent living.

An EHCP must contain:

There is a legal requirement to keep everything in each section separate, so that the provision of funding is clear. Section F of the EHCP is critically important, as it determines the key area of the provision. If this section is unclear, it may cause delays to funding or, in some cases, it may mean support is not received.

When you receive a draft EHCP, it is essential to check the details and communicate any issues within 15 days.  It is especially important to ensure that the special educational provision in Section F meets all the needs that have been detailed in Section B.

If you are not happy with any aspect of the plan, you can ask for areas to be changed, but only if you have a draft EHCP or an upcoming review. If a child or young person’s circumstances change dramatically (such as if they get worse and need additional provision), you can request an early annual review or a re-assessment of their needs. 

Where can I find advice and support to help me get an EHCP for my child?

Watch our Livestream - All about EHCPs

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