What is an EHC Assessment?
An EHC Assessment is an assessment of the child's Educational, Health and Social Care needs. It aims to assess if the child needs more help than can be provided by the pre-school, school (or college, in the case of a young person).
There are different types of assessments. If the school tells you that an assessment is taking place, you need to establish what kind of assessment is happening. An EHC assessment (or a professional assessment undertaken as part of an EHC assessment) is the most important one in terms of being a legal process which may result in the Local Authority deciding that it is necessary to issue an EHC plan for your child (or Young person, if over 16 but under 25).
Who can ask for an EHC Assessment?
Either the parent of the child or the school can ask for an EHC assessment. It is best if the school and the parent are in agreement, but if not the parent can make the request alone.
How do I request an EHC Assessment?
Write to the highest person at the Local Authority, usually the Director of Education or Head of Children’s Services. Your school or college can advise you, or you can find out what they are called on the Local Authority's website.
For a template letter that can be used to submit a parental request for a child to have an EHC needs (statutory) assessment, see here.
Will my request be granted?
Not necessarily - particularly if the setting your child attends does not support the need for an EHC assessment. If the Local Authority doesn't agree, you can appeal.
How does an EHC Assessment work?
An EHC assessment is started when the Local Authority notifies the parents and the child's school that the Local Authority has decided an EHC assessment will take place. The Local Authority must obtain reports from the following:
What should be in the reports?
The content of reports is governed by law. The Local Authority should be asking the professionals to provide the following information as part of their report:
When you get them, read the reports carefully. Sometimes reports are written which provide clear information about the special educational needs of a child, but are very unclear about the provision that will be needed to meet those needs, and the outcomes that the child should be able to achieve if they get that provision.
Who writes the reports?
When the Local Authority notifies you that it is undertaking an EHC assessment of your child, they should also tell you which professionals they will be asking to provide reports. If they don't, ask them.
If there is a supportive professional who knows your child well, ask for them to be included on the list of report writers. For example, if your child is under CAMHS then ask the Local Authority to seek a report from CAMHS.
Similarly, if you think your child should be assessed by a Speech and Language therapist, or an Occupational therapist, or a Physiotherapist, ask the Local Authority to seek these reports as part of your child's EHC assessment. Even if your child is not currently receiving therapy it may be important for an assessment to be undertaken if there are issues or difficulties that your child has which require an assessment by an appropriate professional.
Educational Psychologist's report
This is often the most important report, and it should be a full assessment of your child's needs. Worryingly, often the educational psychologist's assessment is based on a single visit to see the child in school, where the child is observed, a meeting takes place with the parents and SENCo and then the report is written. This is an Observation and not a full cognitive or diagnostic Assessment.
The Local Authority will use the recommendations in the Educational Psychologist's report to write most of Section B (special educational needs) and Section E (Outcomes) and Section F (special educational provision) - so it is vital that a comprehensive assessment of your child is undertaken.
If your child hasn't been properly assessed, as they should be by law, write to the Local Authority to request a proper assessment.
How can I avoid problems with the assessments?
When you are notified that the Local Authority is assessing your child, write back to thank them and (politely) remind them about the legal requirements.
We have prepared a template letter to help, which you can adapt to your own needs. For a copy of this letter, see here.
You are asking the Local Authority to follow the proper legal process of an EHC assessment. If the Local Authority ignores your letter, then later if you have to appeal, you may be able to ask the Tribunal to direct the Local Authority to seek the information and advice that should have been obtained as part of the EHC assessment. This may be particularly useful for parents who do not qualify for Legal Aid or cannot afford to engage an independent professional to provide additional evidence.
How long will I have to wait to know if the Local Authority will issue an EHC plan for my child?
From requesting a EHC assessment to the issuing of a final EHC plan should take no longer than 20 weeks. For an extract from the SEND Code of Practice, 2015, showing the deadlines for each stage, including when a right of appeal must be given to the parents, see here.