The EHC assessment process and timeline
Although an EHC assessment can be requested by a child's nursery or health worker, you are, as always, your child's best advocate
The request must be in writing. Some local authorities have online forms that you can use - if you do, remember to print everything off so that you have a copy.
How do I request an EHC assessment?
- Write a letter to the head of SEN at your local authority (look up the contact details on the council's website) saying: "I am requesting an EHC assessment of my child, [insert name], for special educational needs under the terms of the Children and Families Act 2014."
- Write a paragraph on your child's problems and needs.
How will I know the process has started?
As soon as it has been requested, the local authority should start gathering evidence about your child's needs. Within six weeks, the authority will make a decision on whether or not to assess your child, and will inform you of their decision in writing.
If your local authority decides not to go ahead with the EHC assessment, your child can still be entitled to extra help in school.
If you believe that your child really needs an EHC assessment and the local authority's decision is wrong, then you have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.
Who will assess my child during the assessment?
- You - the parents' view is sought and you will be asked to write a report about your child
- Headteacher and teachers involved with your child's learning
- Educational psychologist, to ascertain the sort of support that your child needs
- School doctor or your own doctor - medical reports may be requested
- Private opinions/advice - if there are other professionals you think would be able to help convey your child's needs, these can be included.
What do I write in my parents' report?
The parents' report provides a chance for the panel to 'see' the child behind all the other reports and jargon. You should include something of your child's history, how s/he has found developmental milestones, as well as current difficulties and needs.
You should also provide a list of any professional people your child currently sees, so that the authority can request up-to-date reports from all of them.
EHC assessment timeline
- Day 1 You write your letter requesting an EHC assessment.
- 6 weeks The local authority will make a decision on whether or not to assess and let you know its decision in writing. If it decides to go ahead, it should name the Officer who will deal with your case - this is the number-one person you need to speak to each time.
- 6-12 weeks The local authority will write to the educational psychologist, medical officer, school/pre-school teachers and social workers asking for their reports. It will also ask you for a report and your ideas about who else it might contact. Everyone involved has six weeks to submit their reports. Your child should also be asked for their input, where possible.
- 12-18 weeks (but it might be rather longer) When all the reports are in, the authority decides whether to put together a plan or a note in lieu. If an EHC plan is approved, then a draft 'proposed' plan is sent to you. You can comment on the proposed plan and will be offered the chance to meet with your officer to discuss this if you want to. (You can also discuss the proposed plan with an independent supporter.) If a plan is not approved, then you will receive a note in lieu. This describes your child's needs and offers guidelines as to how those needs can be met. A note in lieu means your child will not get extra resources from the local authority.
- Annually The plan must be reviewed at least annually.
What if I disagree with the decision of the EHC assessment?
If you disagree with the decision, your local authority should give you the chance to discuss things with them. Contact the officer in charge of your case. It is to everyone's benefit that you come to an agreement.
But if you still disagree, or if the EHC plan offers less support than you would like, you have the right to go to a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
There are support organisations and services, such as the Parent Partnership Service, that can support you with this decision.
What Mumsnetters say about the assessment process
- "IPSEA are very good at the whole minefield that is the assessment process. Their web address is www.ipsea.org.uk. There are model letters on there you can use."
- "Till you do this in writing, you will get fobbed off again and again."
- "A draft of the plan will be sent to you to approve, based on reports written and collated. Your job is to go through it with a fine tooth comb and send it back with your amendments (ask for electronic copy so that you can do this easily). All provision must be quantified and specified. This is ESSENTIAL. Keep on sending it back until you are completely satisfied. Ignore what they tell you is available. Consider what you (in conjunction with professionals you trust) deem appropriate."
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