An Education, Health and Care plan (“EHC plan”) is a legal document which describes a child or young person’s special educational needs, the support they need, and the outcomes they would like to achieve.
The special educational provision described in an EHC plan must be provided by the child or young person’s local authority (“LA”). This means an EHC plan can give a child or young person extra educational support. It can also give parents and young people more choice about which school or other setting the child or young person can attend.
An EHC plan can only be issued after a child or young person has gone through the process of an Education, Health and Care needs assessment.
Who should you contact?
In the first instance, please write/email to:
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
P O Box 4
Tel: 01253 476602
The information on this page is attributable to IPSEA.
An Education, Health and Care (“EHC”) needs assessment is an assessment of a child or young person’s education, health and care needs. It is the first step to getting an Education, Health and Care plan (“EHC plan”). An EHC plan can result in additional support and funding for a child or young person with special educational needs (“SEN”)
If a local authority (“LA”) is requested to carry out an EHC needs assessment by a parent, young person, school or college, they must consider:
- whether the child or young person has or may have special educational needs (“SEN”); and
- whether they may need special educational provision to be made through an EHC plan.
If the answer to both of these questions is yes, they must carry out an EHC needs assessment.
This test is set out in the law (section 36(8) of the Children and Families Act 2014). This means these are the only questions the LA should be asking when considering whether or not to carry out an EHC needs assessment.
An Education, Health and Care (“EHC”) needs assessment is an assessment of the education, health care and social care needs of the child or young person.
The local authority (“LA”) must seek information and advice on a child or young person’s needs, the provision required to meet those needs, and the outcomes expected to be achieved by the child or young person. This advice must come from a range of different people, described below.
The LA has the legal duty to carry out the assessment process. They cannot ask a school or college to carry out the assessment for them, and they cannot require the school or college to pay for any part of the assessment (such as the educational psychologist’s report).
The LA must seek advice from a range of people. The list is set out in Regulation 6(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (the “SEN Regs”):
- the child’s parent or the young person;
- educational advice (usually from the head teacher or principal);
- medical advice and information from a health care professional;
- psychological advice and information from an educational psychologist;
- advice and information in relation to social care;
- advice and information from any other person the local authority thinks appropriate;
- where the child or young person is in or beyond year 9, advice and information in relation to provision to assist the child or young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living; and
- advice and information from any person the child’s parent or young person reasonably requests that the local authority seek advice from.
The LA is legally required to seek all of this information as a minimum.
If a child or young person is hearing impaired and/or visually impaired the educational advice must come from a suitably qualified person (SEN Reg 6(2)).
The LA should consider whether a social care assessment or health assessment is also needed. There is some debate as to whether health and care assessments are automatically triggered when a request for an EHC needs assessment is made. In practice, it is best to request social care and health assessments independently to ensure the request is received.
Under point SEN Reg 6(1)(h), a parent or young person can ask the LA to seek advice from anyone within education, health or social care, as long as it is a reasonable request. This can include a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist or someone from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).
A request would be considered reasonable where, for example, a child or young person has been identified as needing an assessment already and they are on a waiting list, or where the school, college or other professionals have said this advice may be needed.
It is best to request that a particular professional is approached in writing (either in a letter or an email).
The LA does not have to seek new advice where that type of advice has previously been provided for any purpose – for example, if there already was a recent educational psychologist’s report. This exception will only apply if the person providing that advice, the LA and the child’s parent or the young person are all satisfied that the existing advice is sufficient. Previous advice can only be sufficient for an EHC needs assessment if it is relatively up to date and accurately reflects the child or young person’s current needs. As a rough guide, an educational psychologist’s report which is over two years old will not usually be recent enough to be useful.
If a parent or young person already has their own advice and reports, these can be submitted as part of their own advice (which the LA must ask for under SEN Reg 6(1)(a)) to ensure that they form part of the assessment process. This evidence must then be considered when the LA makes its decision.
Copies of evidence submitted by the parent or the young person must be supplied to the other people from whom information is being sought (SEN Reg 6(3)).
Their advice must be clear, accessible and specific (see paragraph 9.51 of the SEN and Disability Code of Practice). In particular, it should address the child or young person’s needs, the special educational provision required to meet those needs, and the outcomes which this provision will aim to achieve. LAs are not permitted to have policies preventing professionals from giving evidence on the provision required.
In relation to point (e) (advice and information in relation to social care), it is not uncommon for LAs to receive a response from social care stating “not known to this service”. The advice sought from the list of professionals contained in SEN Reg 6(1) must be in relation to the child’s needs, provision and outcomes. A response stating “not known to this service” is not going to fulfil the local authority’s duty to obtain the advice necessary for a full and accurate EHC needs assessment.
Any of the advice you receive should address needs, provision and outcomes.
As well as the duties relating to evidence, the LA must:
- Consult with the parent or young person, and where the case involves a child, they must also consult with the child. They must take into account their views, wishes and feelings; Sell 'Tell you once' document and 'Personal profile' document links on this page.
- Engage the child and the child’s parent or the young person, ensuring that they are able to participate in decisions; and
- Minimise disruption for the child, the child’s parent, the young person and their family.
SEN Reg 9 requires the LA to consider whether the child’s parent or the young person requires any information, advice and support in order for them to take part effectively in the EHC needs assessment, and if so this must be provided.
Anyone who is asked for information and advice must respond within 6 weeks (SEN Reg 8(1)). The only exceptions to this are if exceptional circumstances affect the child, the child’s parent or the young person during that 6 week period; the child, the child’s parent or the young person are absent from the area of the authority for a continuous period of not less than 4 weeks during that 6 week period; or the child or young person fails to keep an appointment for an examination or a test made during that 6 week period.
This is a legal duty which must be complied with; it cannot be avoided because there is a long waiting list or because there are staffing shortages. If an LA is genuinely unable to obtain one of the necessary pieces of advice during the time frame, they would be expected to obtain an independent report in its place.
The LA must notify the parent or young person of their decision whether or not they will issue a plan within a maximum of 16 weeks from the request for assessment.
The LA must decide whether it will issue an EHC plan for the child or young person based on the evidence it has gathered as part of the EHC needs assessment. The legal test which the LA must apply is found in section 37(1) of the Children and Families Act 2014 which says:
“(1) Where, in the light of an EHC needs assessment, it is necessary for special educational provision to be made for a child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan -
(a) the local authority must secure that an EHC plan is prepared for the child or young person, and
(b) once an EHC plan has been prepared, it must maintain the plan.”
Therefore the LA must decide, on the basis of the evidence from the EHC needs assessment, whether it is necessary for the child or young person to have an EHC plan.
If the LA decides not to issue an EHC plan, it must tell the parent or young person within 16 weeks of the date the request for an assessment was made. The parent or young person can appeal this decision to the SEND Tribunal.
If the LA decides to issue an EHC plan, it will first send out a draft plan for the parent or young person to review and comment on. It should then send the final EHC plan to the parent or young person within 20 weeks from the date the assessment was requested. In order to meet this deadline they would need to send out the draft plan a maximum of 14 weeks from the date the assessment was requested.
Under Regulation 12 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (the “SEN Regs”), an EHC plan must have the following sections:
- Section A: the views, interests and aspirations of the child and his parents or the young person;
- Section B: the child or young person’s special educational needs (“SEN”);
- Section C: health care needs which relate to their SEN;
- Section D: social care needs which relate to their SEN or to a disability ;
- Section E: the outcomes sought for the child or young person;
- Section F: the special educational provision required to meet their SEN;
- Section G: any health care provision reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN;
- Section H: any social care provision required from social services under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, and/or reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN;
- Section I: the name of the school or other institution to be attended by the child or young person, and the type of that institution (or just the type if no specific institution is named);
- Section J: details of any direct payment which will be made;
- Section K: copies of all of the advice and information obtained as part of the EHC needs assessment.
Once an EHC plan is in place for a child or young person, it is unlikely to remain the same over time. As they grow up, it may become out of date, and they may move to a different school or college.
If the family moves to a different local authority (“LA”), the EHC plan will move with them, but the new LA might wish to make changes to the plan.
Additionally, at least once a year, the EHC plan should be reviewed by the LA and the school or college, working together with the parents or the young person (this is called an annual review). If the child or young person is moving school, the annual review should be carried out well in advance of the move.
Sometimes, it might be necessary to ask for an early review where it is necessary to change the EHC plan more urgently – for example, if a school placement has broken down.
If there is a significant change in the child or young person’s needs, then the parents or young person can ask for a re-assessment of the child or young person’s needs.
Where a child or young person has an EHC plan, it must be reviewed at least once a year by the local authority (“LA”). This is to ensure it stays up-to-date and continues to provide the support the child or young person needs.
At the end of the review, there are only three decisions the LA can make:
- To maintain the EHC plan in its current format (not make any changes);
- To amend the EHC plan;
- To cease the EHC plan if they think it is no longer necessary for it to be in place
In each case, even if the LA decides not to make any changes, you can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) (the “SEND Tribunal”) to try to get changes made to the EHC plan. (If the LA has decided to amend the EHC plan, you can appeal once you have been sent the final amended EHC plan.)
If the child or young person is coming up to a phase transfer (for example, moving from primary school to secondary school), the LA must carry out the review well in advance of the move.
The annual review is the statutory process of looking at the needs and provision specified in an EHC Plan, and deciding whether these need to change.
The first review of the EHC plan must be held within 12 months of the EHC plan being finalised. Subsequent reviews must be held within 12 months of the previous review.
The following steps must take place in an annual review:
- The LA must consult with the parent of the child or young person (and with the school or institution being attended if there is one) about the EHC plan, and take account of their views, wishes and feelings.
- An annual review meeting must take place to discuss the EHC plan.
- Information must be gathered from parents and young people and from professionals about the EHC plan and then circulated two weeks before the meeting.
- After the meeting a report of what happened must be prepared and circulated to everyone who attended or submitted information to be discussed.
- After the meeting the LA reviews the EHC plan.
- The LA must notify the parent of the child or young person of their decision within four weeks of the meeting.
Local authorities (“LAs”) have a legal duty to review and amend an education, health and care (“EHC”) plan when a child or young person transfers from one phase of education to another. Phase transfer is the moving between particular stages of education:
- early years education to school
- infant to junior school
- primary to middle school
- primary to secondary school
- middle to secondary school
- secondary school to a post 16 institution
For those transferring from secondary school to a post-16 institution, the EHC plan must be reviewed and amended by 31 March in the year of transfer; for all other phases of transfer, the deadline is 15 February in the year of transfer.
When a young person is already attending a post-16 institute and it is proposed that they move from one post-16 institution to another at any time, the LA must review and amend the EHC plan at least five months before that transfer takes place.
These deadlines are set out in Regulation 18 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014.
After the review, the EHC plan should state that they will continue to attend their current setting until the end of the academic year (or another date if different). In Section I, it should name the setting or the type of setting that they will attend from the start of the next academic year.
As described in more detail here, where the LA is amending the EHC plan it must notify the parent or young person of its decision within four weeks of the meeting. It should then send details of the proposed amendments without delay, in order for the parent or young person to make comments on the content of the EHC plan. The LA must finalise the amended EHC plan within eight weeks of sending the parent or young person the proposed amendments. This process must be completed by the deadlines set out above. This means that discussions about transfer need to begin early in the autumn term of the year before transfer to allow plenty of time for the review and amendment process to happen.
Blackpool have created a guide for parents on phase transfers. Please see the download.
This will not happen automatically. Under the law, it happens either on the day of the move or within 15 working days of the new LA becoming aware of the move, if later. Therefore it is best for parents or young people to notify the new LA (usually the SEN team within Children’s Services) in advance that they are going to be moving into the area.
The new LA then has six weeks to notify the parent or young person that the EHC plan has been transferred, and to let them know when it is going to review the EHC plan (see below).
As soon as the EHC plan has transferred, the new LA has the same legal duties as if they had issued the EHC plan themselves. The most important duty is to ensure the child or young person receives all of the special educational provision specified in Section F of his EHC plan.
If the child or young person’s EHC plan names a school for which fees must be paid in Section I, “the new authority may not decline to pay the fees or otherwise maintain the child at an independent or non-maintained special school or a boarding school named in an EHC plan unless and until they have amended the EHC plan” (Paragraph 9.159 of the Code).
If it is no longer practicable for the child or young person to attend the school or college named in Section I (perhaps because it is too far away) then the LA must arrange for them to attend another appropriate school until they review and amend the EHC plan.