Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment – (EHCNA / EHC Needs Assessment) – the 6 weeks for the completion of professional assessments

Please also see our Information Sheet on EHC Needs Assessments and EHCP 20-week Planner.

This Information Sheet is based on the six weeks that the Local Authority (LA) have to carry out the statutory assessments.  

Day 1 is the date your EHC Needs Assessment request was received by the LA.  If the LA agree to assess (within the first 6 weeks) then the statutory assessments should be carried out by end of week 12.

If the LA agree to issue an EHCP, the latest that they can issue a draft would be within week 16 (the very latest day is actually by the end of the 5th day in week 16!).See our Information Sheet called ‘EHCP 20 week planner’.

What is the piece of Law that covers this assessment period?

The SEND Code of Practice states:

Duty to co-operate in EHC needs assessments

8. (1) Where a local authority requests the co-operation of a body in securing an EHC needs assessment in accordance with section 31 of the Act, that body must comply with such a request within 6 weeks of the date on which they receive it.

(2) A body need not comply with the time limit referred to in paragraph (1) if it is impractical to do so because—

(a) exceptional circumstances affect the child, the child’s parent or the young person during that 6 week period;

(b) 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

(c) the child or young person fails to keep an appointment for an examination or a test made by the body during that 6 week period.

How long will this take?

As mentioned above, 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 as outlined above.

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 (see case law below).

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.

Can parents or young people ask for advice from a particular person?

In the SEN Regs, under 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 put this request in writing, so that you have a record of your request.

‘Seek advice’ may not be the same as a full assessment.

What if there are existing reports or advice about the child or young person?

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 (EP) 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 EP’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:

Information and advice to be obtained of EHC Needs Assessments:

6.(1) Where the local authority secures an EHC needs assessment for a child or young person, it must seek the following advice and information, on the needs of the child or young person, and what provision may be required to meet such needs and the outcomes that are intended to be achieved by the child or young person receiving that provision:

(a) advice and information from the child’s parent or the young person;

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)

What should the advice contain?

Their advice must be clear, accessible and specific (9.51 of the SEND 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.

If any of the advice you receive does not address needs, provision and outcomes, you can use IPSEA’s model letter to complain. The LA should go back to the professional concerned and ask them for advice which complies with SEN Reg 6(1).

See Information sheet called ‘EHCP’s being Quantified and Specified’.

Taken from a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman decision:

Hampshire County Council (15 011 838)

‘While acknowledging that health has a statutory duty to respond to an EHC needs assessment request within 6 weeks of the request being made, the Regulations and Code point to the SEN department’s responsibility to ensure that the overall process of EHC assessment and plan development is timely and that when assessment evidences the need for an EHC Plan this is achieved within 20 weeks of the parent requesting EHC assessment.

In my view this overarching responsibility means that when a body from whom the SEN department requests information for an EHC needs assessment exceeds the six week time frame, and there is doubt that the body will send the information in the near future, the SEN department should commission its own assessment from a private provider and seek to recoup the cost from the CCG’.