EHC Needs Assessment-a metaphorical pathway forward

Requesting an EHC Needs Assessment: A Guide for Parents

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When you’re navigating the journey of supporting a child or young person with special educational needs (SEN), understanding when and how to request an Education, Health, and Care (EHC) needs assessment from your local authority (LA) is crucial. Here’s a parent-friendly breakdown of what you need to know:

When to Consider an EHC Needs Assessment

If you find that your child or young person is not thriving in school or college due to learning difficulties or a disability, it might be time to consider an EHC needs assessment. This is especially true if you feel the educational setting is unable to provide the necessary support.

The Legal Basis

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, LAs must consider two key questions for an EHC needs assessment:

  • Does the child or young person have, or may they have, SEN?
  • Might they need special educational provision through an EHC plan?

A “yes” to both means the LA is legally required to proceed with the assessment.

What to Look For

The SEN and Disability Code of Practice offers detailed criteria. LAs should look for evidence that despite the educational provider’s efforts, the child or young person isn’t making expected progress. This includes considering:

  • Academic attainment or developmental milestones
  • The nature and context of the SEN
  • Actions taken by the educational setting
  • The need for additional intervention
  • Physical, emotional, social development, and health needs

Making the Request

Who can request an assessment?

  • Parents, for children under 16
  • Young people themselves from 16 up to 25
  • Schools or colleges

Before reaching out to the LA, it’s beneficial to discuss your concerns with the school or college. If you decide to proceed, writing a clear, concise letter to your LA outlining why you believe an EHC needs assessment is necessary is your next step. Remember, the request can be made at any time and is specifically for those with, or suspected to have SEN.

Are Local Authorities clear in their advice around Requesting EHC Needs Assessments?

We picked a Local Authority at random and elected to download their guide to parents on Education Health and Care Plan Needs (EHCPs) including details about the EHC Needs assessment and how to apply.

The information provided on how to request an EHC Needs Assessment generally aligned with the legal framework and rights under the Children and Families Act 2014.

  • Direct Requests by Parents and Young People: Parents of children under the age of 16, and young people aged 16 to 25 in their own right, can request an EHC needs assessment directly from their Local Authority (LA). This empowerment allows families and individuals to take action based on their observations and concerns.
  • Evidence Requirement: The requirement for the child or young person’s education provider to supply evidence of the support provided thus far is crucial. This evidence demonstrates the application of the ‘graduated response’ (assess, plan, do, review) and is a standard part of considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary. Parents need to understand that this evidence is necessary to show that the setting has made significant efforts to meet the child’s needs before an assessment is considered.
  • Multiagency Panel Review: The description of the multiagency panel’s role in reviewing the evidence and deciding on the necessity of an EHC needs assessment is accurate. This step ensures that decisions are made holistically, considering all aspects of the child’s or young person’s needs.
  • Notification Timeline: The requirement for the LA to inform the applicant of the decision within six weeks of receiving the request for an EHC assessment is a critical right under the SEND regulations. It ensures that there is a clear timeframe for families and young people awaiting a decision.

How to make a parental request for an EHC Needs Assessment

One parent provided a draft template they used, using AI- my advice would be to refer to, perhaps the most famous template on this subject on the internet – from IPSEA Modal Letter – which presents the legal framework, sites specific sections on deadlines etc and is addressed to the director of SEN.

I used the IPSEA template letter, works well and kick started the whole process. If we had to do this all again I think we should have 1) voice concern with school, 2) set out deadline to gather evidence 3) whole crunch talk on submitting an application 4) submit it ourselves.

We did point 1, we provided no deadline in point 2, so it just became a conversation without an outcome, we have numerous meetings around point 3, but again no outcomes. We completed point 4 and it worked.

Parents view on submitting directly with the LA request for EHC Needs Assessment

After the Request

Once you’ve made the request, the LA should respond within six weeks, letting you know their decision. If they agree to assess, they’ll gather information from various sources. If they don’t, you have the right to appeal.

A Few Extra Tips

  • Keep a copy of all communications with the LA.
  • Use available template letters to help structure your request.
  • Mark the six-week response time on your calendar.
  • Don’t hesitate to follow up or even lodge a complaint if you don’t hear back in time.

Navigating the EHC needs assessment process can feel overwhelming, but you’re not alone. There’s a wealth of resources and support available to guide you through, ensuring your child gets the support they deserve. Remember, advocating for your child’s needs is a sign of strength and

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