Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment needs assessments (EHCNA)

This information is about Education, Health and Care needs assessment (EHCNA). It 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 EHCNA is a detailed look at the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) of a child or young person and the support he or she may need in order to learn. Local Authorities (LA) are responsible for carrying out EHCNA under the Children and Families Act 2014.

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 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. 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.

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)

If a LA is requested to carry out an EHCNA 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 EHCNA.

The SEND Code of Practice, which is statutory guidance issued by the government, contains further detail on what LAs should consider.

At paragraph 9.14 the Code states that “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.

How should I make the request?

Parents, carers and young people can request an assessment by completing the ‘Request for Education, Health and Care Plan Assessment (young person, parent or carer form)’ which is on Surrey’s Local Offer website under the ‘L-SPA’ box.  The form would be sent to Surrey’s Learners Single Point of Access (L-SPA) – learnerssupport.triage@surreycc.gov.uk

You can also write (email) the same team using a template letter can be found on our website www.sendadvicesurrey.org.uk then going to ‘Model Letters’ and ‘Making a request for an EHC needs assessment’. Your letter should set out why you believe your child has or may have special educational needs and why you believe they may need special educational provision to be made through an EHCP.

You can apply at any time.

For children under 16, the parent makes the request. This includes children from age 0 to 5, where parents should make a request if they believe that the child will need extra help at nursery or when they start school.

In the case of a young person (over 16 and up to 25), they can make the request themselves. If the young person is not able to understand, remember or communicate decisions about the educational support they need, their parent or carer can make the request on a young person’s behalf.

Forms for Schools can also be downloaded from the Surrey’s Local Offer website under the L-SPA box.

The Legal Test:

The law states that if your child has or may have special needs and may need provision to be made via an EHCP, the local authority must conduct an EHC needs assessment. This means that you do not have to prove that an EHCP is definitely necessary to obtain an assessment, you just have to show it may be necessary.  The assessment is done to find out if an EHCP is required.

If you think your child needs more help than the school can provide, you can ask for an assessment.

Some children and young people will have needs that clearly require an EHC needs assessment and EHCP. Immediately the LA is aware that this is the case it must start the process without delay. You can find out more about the criteria that LA should follow in the SEND Code of Practice sections 9.3 and 9.14 to 9.16.

The LA should pay particular attention to:

  • evidence of the child or young person’s academic attainment (or developmental milestones in younger children) and rate of progress;
  • information about the nature, extent and context of the child or young person’s SEND;
  • evidence of the action already taken by the school or other setting;
  • evidence that where progress has been made, it has only been as the result of much additional intervention and support over and above that which is usually provided;
  • evidence of the child or young person’s physical, emotional and social development and health needs, drawing on relevant evidence from clinicians and other health professionals and what has been done to meet these by other agencies.

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 when the LA gets a request for an EHC needs assessment?

As soon as the LA gets a request for an EHC needs assessment they must tell you about it.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

“In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, local authorities should pay particular attention to the views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parent, or the young person”.(9.12)

The local authority has up to six weeks to decide whether to make a needs assessment. During this time it may ask you, the school and other professionals for information.  It will look at all the information and must then tell you whether it has decided to start the EHC needs assessment immediately OR that an EHC needs assessment is not necessary.

What happens if the local authority 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. 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.

When should I hear back?

The LA must reply within six weeks (this is required by regulation 4(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014). They should always reply to you as a parent or young person – even where the request was made by the school or college.

Make a note of the six-week deadline for the LA’s reply. If they do not respond in time, you can use our model letter to complain to the LA.

What will the LA’s response say?

If the LA agrees to carry out an assessment, various people will need to be approached for advice.

If the LA refuses to carry out an assessment, you have the right to appeal against this decision. The letter should explain that there is a right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) and should contain details of a mediation service for you to contact. You can find more information on how to appeal here.

What happens if the EHC needs assessment goes ahead?

The SEND Code of Practice says:

Local authorities must consult the child and the child’s parent or the young person throughout the process of assessment and production of an EHC plan. They should also involve the child as far as possible in this process. The needs of the individual child and young person should sit at the heart of the assessment and planning process.(9.21)

The LA will write to you to tell you what will happen and ask for your views. Your views and your child’s views are really important.

The LA will ask a number of other people for information about your child. This is called ‘advice’ and it should include information about:

  • your child’s education, health and care needs
  • the desired outcomes for your child
  • the special educational, health and care provision that might be required to meet their needs and achieve the desired outcomes.

The LA must ask for advice and information from:

  • parents (or the young person)
  • your child’s early years setting or school
  • an educational psychologist
  • health professionals who work with your child. This might include a paediatrician, speech and language therapist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist
  • social care staff
  • anyone else you ask them to contact who may be able to give relevant advice

If your child has a vision or hearing impairment the local authority must also seek information and advice from a suitably qualified teacher.

The LA should also try to find out your child’s views. You, the school and other professionals may be able to help with this.

You will have the chance to discuss your child with everyone involved in the needs assessment and you will receive a copy of all the reports when the needs assessment is finished.

You can find out more about advice and information for EHC needs assessments in the SEND Code of Practice sections 9.45 – 9.52.

What if some of this advice is already available?

Sometimes advice and information is already available because other professionals have been working with your child.

The SEND Code of Practice says:

“The local authority must not seek further advice if such advice has already been provided (for any purpose) and the person providing the advice, the local authority and the child’s parent or the young person are all satisfied that it is sufficient for the assessment process. In making this decision, the local authority and the person providing the advice should ensure the advice remains current”.(9.47)

When does the EHC needs assessment end?

Once the LA has all the information and advice it must decide whether your child needs an EHCP.

An EHCP is a legal document written by the LA. It describes the special educational needs that a child or young person has and the help that they will be given to meet them. It also includes the health and care provision that is needed. You can read more about EHC plans on Surrey’s Local Offer SEND resource page.

Sometimes the LA will decide that your child has special educational needs that can be met through SEN support. If this is the case the LA must tell you of its decision within 16 weeks of receiving a request for an EHC needs assessment. The LA must also tell you about your right of appeal.

If the LA decides an EHCP is necessary it must first write a draft plan. It will send you the draft EHCP and copies of the reports so that you can read it all. You should check that everything you think is important has been included and that you agree with the outcomes and the proposed provision. The LA will also ask you which school you prefer your child to go to.

You have 15 days to make comments, to ask for a meeting or accept the draft plan.  Note that if you do not reply within 15 days the LA may assume that you agree with the draft plan.

The last stage is for the LA to send you the final EHCP. If you are still unhappy with the plan or cannot agree with the LA on a school, you have a right to go to mediation and/or to appeal.

How long does all this take?

The local authority receives a request for an EHC needs assessment. The authority must tell parents about this request This is the start date
The local authority decides whether an EHC needs assessment is needed. The authority must tell parents about its decision. This letter is from L-SPA (Learners-Single Point of Access). Within six weeks of the start date
The EHC needs assessment takes place.

A SEN Case Officer will write to you to notify the assessment has started.

The assessments should start as soon as possible
EITHER
The local authority tells the parents of the decision not to issue an EHC plan

OR

The local authority sends a draft EHC plan to parents

Within 16 weeks of the start date

Parents must respond to the draft EHC plan. They can:

agree that the draft is adequate

ask for changes

ask for a meeting.

Parents have the right at this point to state a preference for a school or early years setting

Within 15 days of receiving the draft EHC plan
The local authority consults with the school or early years setting Within 15 days of parents’ response to the draft EHC plan
The local authority issues the final EHC plan Within 20 weeks of the start date

Sometimes this timescale can be different. See SEND Code of Practice section 9.42.

What if I do not agree with the LA about the EHC needs assessment or the EHCP?

At any stage you can ask to talk to a member of the LA staff. This will usually be the person named in the letter the LA sends to you when it receives a request for an EHC needs assessment or the person named on the letter with the draft EHCP.

If the LA decides that an EHC needs assessment and an EHCP are necessary for your child, they must carry out the assessment and issue a plan whatever your views are.

You also have a right to request independent disagreement resolution and, in some circumstances, mediation. You can find out more about disagreement resolution and mediation at in the SEND Code of Practice Chapter 9.

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