This information looks at how autistic children and young people might receive support for their special educational needs (SEN) at nursery, school and college

Most children’s needs can be met by their school or education setting, with the help of outside specialists sometimes needed. However, in some cases the local authority will be asked to make an assessment of a child’s Education, Health and Care needs (an EHC needs assessment). After the EHC needs assessment, if the authority decides that a child or young person needs special help which is greater than can be provided by the school’s resources, they must prepare an Education, Health and Care plan .

The plan describes all the child’s needs, and details the specialist help and provision required to meet them. Education, Health and Care plans can be issued to children and young people from ages 0-25 years, if the young person remains in some form of education or training. Students going to university will not be eligible for a plan. 

EHC needs assessment

You may hear from your child’s school that an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment will be requested for your son or daughter, or you may want to request one yourself, as you think they need more help than the school can give. But what exactly is the assessment process?

An EHC needs assessment is a detailed exploration to find out what your child’s special educational needs are and what provision should be put into place to meet them. It is the step before an Education, Health and Care Plan (often known simply as a ‘plan’), but doesn’t always lead to a plan being written.

The local authority must, by law, comply with a request for an assessment unless:

  • your child already has an Education, Health and Care Plan
  • an EHC needs assessment has been made within the last six months
  • the local authority believes upon examining evidence that an EHC needs assessment is not necessary.

The local authority will only carry out an EHC needs assessment if they believe your child probably has special educational needs and that they need, or probably need, to determine the level of your child’s special educational provision by writing a plan.

It’s important to remember that an EHC needs assessment is different from assessments that your child’s school may carry out. It is also different from tests or visits by educational psychologists, specialist teachers or speech and language therapists.

Only a local authority can carry out an EHC needs assessment, and this is the only kind of assessment that can lead to an Education, Health and Care plan.

Who can request an EHC needs assessment?

A request for an EHC needs assessment can be made by a representative from your child’s school, but you should be consulted before a request for an assessment is made. As a parent, you can request an assessment if you believe that your child’s needs are either not being met through SEN Support (support programmes which are funded by schools), or that they are so substantial that a school could not meet them within their own resources.  Young people over the age of 16 can also request an assessment of their own needs.  

An EHC needs assessment can be carried out for your son or daughter from birth to the age of 25.  Before making a request, you should discuss your concerns with the school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO), the manager of the early years setting, or the person with responsibility for SEN at the college. If they’re unable to offer any further support and your concerns remain, you can make a request for an EHC needs assessment directly to your local authority (council). You should clearly set out the reasons for making the request and provide information about the help that your child has already received.

The request should be made in writing to the either the Director of Education, or Director of Children’s Services of the local authority where your child lives. Send a copy of the letter to the school, early years setting or college.

If you’re thinking of requesting an EHC needs assessment for your son or daughter, you may like to use or adapt the following sample letter. Even if the school is asking for an EHC needs assessment it can be a good idea for you to send your own letter making a request for assessment. This then means that you can be sure of the date that the request was made, that it is an EHC needs assessment that has been requested and that your legal rights are not compromised in any way.


Dear Sir/Madam,
Child’s name and date of birth

I am writing as the parent of the above child to request an assessment of his/her special educational needs under section 36 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

[Insert child’s name] attends [insert name of school/early years setting/college].

I believe that my child needs more help than the school/setting is able to provide. His/her special educational needs are as follows:

[Here you could outline the difficulties your child is having at school/setting and at home, send information about any diagnosis, outline any support your child has been receiving and who (if anyone) outside the school/setting has been involved]

My reasons for believing that the school/early years setting/college cannot on their own make the provision required to meet my child’s needs are:

[Here you could outline your continuing concerns about your child’s progress in relation to peers, any increased behavioural difficulties, progress through an Additional SEN Support programme, etc]

I would like you to seek advice from the following people, who are involved with my child.

[List the people involved, giving addresses where necessary]

I understand that you are required by law to reply to this request within six weeks and that if you refuse to carry out an assessment, I will be able to appeal to tribunal.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name and signature]


Considering the request for an assessment

As soon as the local authority starts looking at the request for an EHC needs assessment they must write to you and tell you that they are considering whether to carry out an EHC needs assessment.  The local authority should take into account:

  • your views and the views of your child. To help your child record their thoughts the NAS, in partnership with the Department for Education, have developed a toolkit called 'This is me!'.
  • evidence of your child’s academic attainment and progress
  • information about the nature, extent and cause of your child’s special educational needs
  • evidence of the action already being taken by the school to meet their needs
  • evidence that, where progress has been made, it has only been as the result of a lot of additional instruction and effort over and above what the school would usually provide
  • evidence of your child’s physical, emotional and social development and health needs
  • if your child is over 18 years, whether remaining in education or training would help them to progress and help them make a successful transition to adult life.

The local authority has six weeks to decide whether or not to carry out an EHC needs assessment from the date that they first receive the request.

The decision to assess or not

If the local authority refuses to agree to a request for an EHC needs assessment, parents and young people over 16 years have a legal right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal – Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). You can appeal whether you made the request for an EHC needs assessment, or whether the school did. For more information about the appeal process, please contact the Education Rights Service Tribunal Support Line.

If the local authority agrees to conduct the assessment they will ask you and a number of professionals to give views on your child, including:

  • your child’s school
  • an educational psychologist
  • a doctor
  • social services (who will only give advice if they know your child)
  • anyone else whose advice the local authority considers appropriate.

If your child is in Year 9 or above, the local authority should also ask for advice in relation to preparing them for adulthood and independent living, e.g. a careers adviser.

While the assessment is underway, local authorities, health and other agencies should work with you try to minimise disruption. For example, multiple appointments should be co-ordinated or combined where possible and appropriate. The local authority must also provide you with access to impartial information, advice and support about the process.

As parents you:

  • have the right to be present at any interview, medical or any other test during the assessment process
  • can suggest other people or organisations whose views may be helpful to the assessment of your child
  • may send the local authority any private advice or opinions you have collected. The local authority should take these into account.

The assessment process should take six weeks after which the local authority will decide whether or not to issue an education, health and care plan.

It is only the local authority which can issue a plan, and they must do so if your child has complex and significant special educational needs which need more help than can be provided for by the school's resources.

If the local authority decides not to issue a plan, they must inform you of mediation and your right to appeal to First-tier Tribunal (SEND).  

If the local authority decides to make a plan, they must first issue a draft plan and ask for your views.  Read more about Education, health and care plans (England) if you require further information.

Timescales from EHC needs assessment to plan

Once the local authority receives a request for an EHC needs assessment to take place they have six weeks to make a decision about whether to carry out an assessment.

If the local authority decides not to assess they will write to the parents with information about their right to appeal and the requirement for them to consider mediation. If the local authority decides to assess they will:

  • seek advice from parents and a range of professionals within six weeks (unless there are exceptional circumstances)
  • decide whether or not to make a place after receiving all the advice.

If the local authority decides not to make a plan, they will have to write to the parents within 16 weeks from the date they received the request for an EHC needs assessment telling them that they have the right to appeal.

If the local authority decides to make a plan, they will issue a final plan within 20 weeks of the date they received the request for an EHC needs assessment.

Timescales from EHC needs assessment to plan

 

The local authority (LA) receives a request for an education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment from parents, young person over 16, or a person acting on behalf of a nursery, school or post 16 provision.
   Arrow pointing down  
The LA writes to say it is considering whether to make an assessment.  The LA has six weeks to decide whether to undertake an EHC needs assessment (although there are some exceptions).


 
Arrow pointing down
 
Refused
If the LA decides not to carry out an EHC assessment, a letter should be sent to parents/young person informing them of the reasons for this.  The LA should also inform parents/young person of their right of appeal to tribunal 
  Agreed
If the LA says it will carry out the EHC needs assessment, advice will be sought from parents, the school/education setting, an educational psychologist, the health authority and social services.  The LA has six weeks to complete the assessment (although there are some exceptions)
 
   Arrow pointing lower left  Arrow pointing down
Plan refused
The LA writes to inform parents/young person that they are not issuing an education health and care plan and informs them of their right of appeal to tribunal.
  Plan agreed
The LA issues a draft education, health and care plan with copies of all the reports/advice gathered during the assessment.  Parents have 15 days to comment on the draft plan.
     Arrow pointing down
    The LA must issue a final plan within twenty weeks of receiving the request for an EHC needs assessment.

Children and young people who are in youth custody

If it seems likely that a child or young person in youth custody might need support from an EHC plan on their release, an EHC needs assessment can be undertaken while they are in custody.

Parents, the young people themselves, or the person in charge of the relevant youth accommodation all have the legal right to ask the local authority to arrange an EHC needs assessment to determine post-detention education, health and care needs.  If the local authority refuses to undertake the EHC needs assessment, parents or the young person must be given the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal – Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)

In addition, carers, health and social care professionals, Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) and those responsible for education in custody, can bring a detained person to the attention of their local authority if they are concerned that person has or may have SEN.  The local authority must decide whether an assessment of their post-detention needs is necessary, but there is no right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal – Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in this situation.

Free legal advice and representation can also be sought from Project EPIC, a service run by lawyers to help to children and young people aged 18 and under who are in custody get the education they need.

Other resources

The government has created a series of leaflets for children and young people, which explain key changes to the special educational needs and disability support system. The department of education, together with the council for disabled children, have created a series of related videos explaining the changes.  See link below. 

SEN and disability support changes information for young people.

Further help from the NAS

The NAS, in partnership with the Department for Education, has developed a toolkit that gives children and young people the chance to say what changes they would like to make to education, health care and social care plans.  You can order or download this toolkit here.

This is me! - My assessment profile 

Further help for parents trying to obtain an appropriate education for their child is available from our Education Rights Service.

For general help and information please contact our Autism Helpline


Quick link to this page: www.autism.org.uk/EHC-assessment