Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA)

This information covers children in early years settings and children and young people of school age.  You might also like to look at our information on Education, Health and Care plans (EHCP).

What is an EHC needs assessment?

An Education, Health and Care 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 EHCP.  An EHCP can result in additional support and funding for a child or young person with special educational needs.

The needs assessment brings together information about:

  • what your child can and cannot do and
  • the special help they need.

It includes information from:

  • you
  • your child or the young person
  • the early years’ setting, school or post 16 institution and
  • other professionals who work with or support your child.

The needs assessment is to see if your child or young person needs an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

When is an EHC needs assessment necessary?

The school or early years setting can often give your child help through SEN support (see our guidance on this). This means that the school makes additional or different provision from that provided to most other pupils to meet their needs. Sometimes other professionals will give advice or support to help your child learn.

Some children need more help than the school can provide. If your child does not make progress or has a barrier to learning, despite everything the school has tried, an EHCNA might be the next step.

If a child or young person has a learning difficulty or a disability which is holding them back and you believe that the school (or college or nursery) is not able to provide the help and support that is needed, then a request should be made to the LA.  The LA must carry out an EHC needs assessment if they believe your child’s special educational needs may require more help than a mainstream education setting can normally provide.

You can only ask for an EHC needs assessment if the child or young person has, or may have, special education need (SEN).  It does not apply where there are only health or social care needs.  In the law, a child has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or a disability which calls for special educational provision (SEP).

The SEND Code of Practice says:

“In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, the local authority should consider whether there is evidence that despite the early years provider, school or post-16 institution having taken relevant and purposeful action to identify, assess and meet the special educational needs of the child or young person, the child or young person has not made expected progress”. (9.14)

You may hear the LA or other professionals refer to the ‘Legal Test’.  It refers to the Children and Families Act, 36 (8).  When you send in an EHC needs assessment request a group of professionals from education, health and social care will look at the application and all the evidence to see if the following is true:

  1. Whether the information provided shows that the child or young person may have special educational needs 
  2. Whether the information provided shows that it may be necessary for additional support to be provided for the child or young person above what would be normally available in school.   

If they agree that:

1. The information show that the child or young person may have special educational needs


2. The information shows that the child or young person may need more support that what is available in school.

Then they will agree to carrying out an EHC needs assessment, however this does not guarantee that an EHCP will be issued. Sometimes an EHC assessment is agreed but the assessment shows that the child or young person does not need the additional support (and funding) that an EHCP would bring.  It may be that the assessment shows that the child or young person can be supported by a school or setting without additional funding (i.e. on SEN Support).

How does the EHC needs assessment process start?

The following people can make a formal request for an EHC needs assessment:

  • A parent.
  • A young person themselves if over 16.
  • A school or college.

If you are making the request yourself, you might find our template letter and the checklist on our website useful.

You should explain your child’s difficulties, describe any extra support your child has already received and say why you feel your child needs more help.

Your letter would be sent to:

There is also a ‘Request for Education, Health and Care Plan Assessment (young person, parent or carer) Form’ on Surrey’s Local Offer website under the ‘L-SPA’ box.  The form would be sent to the same email address. 

Remember that the LA will want to see evidence that your child needs more support for their SEN than a mainstream education setting can normally provide.  If you are applying then the LA will contact your child’s School, nursery or college for this information.

The LA must tell you in writing within six weeks whether or not they are going to assess your child.

Should I speak to the school / college / Early Years setting first?

Yes, it will be helpful to talk about your worries before writing to the LA. You should speak to the relevant class or subject teacher, the school SENCO or the person at the college responsible for SEN provision and the head teacher or the principal.

What happens if the LA decides that an EHC needs assessment is not necessary?

The LA must tell you why it thinks that an EHC needs assessment is not needed (in writing). It must also tell you about:

  • your right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and the time limit for appealing
  • independent disagreement resolution and mediation
  • how to get further information, advice or support.

If you disagree with the decision SEND Advice Surrey can explain your options to you.