Applying for an EHCP

This information applies to England.

An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) is a way of getting your child specific support at school. Legally, local authorities must provide the support in a child’s EHCP.

Children should get an EHCP if Special Educational Needs (SEN) support cannot meet their needs. Most children who have an EHCP:

  • have SEN support first
  • need to show how SEN support is not enough for them

Parents and carers can apply to the local authority for an EHCP needs assessment. This is easier if the school supports you.

Applying direct to the local authority

If the school does not support you, you can still apply to the local authority.

You do not need a report from an educational psychologist to do this.

Wales has a different process to England

Wales has Individual Development Plans (IDP), reviewed at least once a year.

Individual Development Plan (SNAP Cymru)

What's in an EHCP

An EHCP is a legal document. It is sometimes called an EHC Plan.

It covers:

  • your child's needs
  • the benefit or difference the support should make to your child (outcomes)
  • the support that your local authority must provide (provision)

This could be because your child needs support with:

  • reading, writing and numbers
  • talking and listening
  • social skills and emotions
  • physical skills

Support (provision)

Special educational provision:

  • ‘educates or trains’ your child
  • and is additional to or different from the educational offer to others of the same age

For example:

  • speech and language therapy
  • physiotherapy
  • occupational therapy
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • support from a trained emotional learning support assistant to do group play
  • a laptop with voice control software and training on how to use it

Example EHC plans, including outcomes (Council for Disabled Children)

Local authorities must provide support in EHCPs

Legally, schools and local authorities must provide the support in your child’s EHCP, even if your child is not at school.

If your local authority says that they cannot do this, contact your local parent support service for help.

Find your local Information Advice and Support Service (Council for Disabled Children)

Applying to the local authority

First, find out if the school agrees that your child needs an assessment. You can still apply to the local authority without them if you need to.

Find out if the school agrees that your child needs an assessment

Talk to your child’s teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). Say why you think your child needs an EHCP. For example, your child:

  • needs more support than school can give through SEN support
  • is not making expected progress
  • is not able to take part in the social parts of play and school
  • needs to go to a different school that can meet their needs

If your teacher and SENCO do not think that your child needs an EHC assessment, you can write to the:

  • head teacher
  • school governor responsible for SEN

If this does not work, you can apply directly to your local authority.

You can apply directly to your local authority

You can apply directly to the local authority for an EHC needs assessment:

  • You can still apply even if the school does not support you.
  • You do not need a report from an educational psychologist to apply.

For example, your child may still need the support in an EHCP even if their academic performance is average or above average.

Template letter asking your local authority for an EHC assessment (IPSEA)

Asking for an EHC assessment (GOV.UK)

Asking for an EHC needs assessment (IPSEA)

Search your local authority’s website to find out who to contact to “request an EHC needs assessment”. This will usually be the SEN team.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Your local authority must say if they will assess your child

Legally, your local authority must assess your child if all the following apply:

  • you ask for an assessment
  • your child has or may have special educational needs and
  • may benefit from an EHCP

This is in the Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years (GOV.UK).

Complain if your local authority does not respond within 6 weeks

If your local authority does not respond within 6 weeks, you should write to complain.

Template letter: Complaining when your local authority does not respond before the 6-week time limit (IPSEA)

Saying that SEN support is not enough for your child

If your child has been getting SEN support, write to the school about how your child is not meeting their SEN goals.

For example:

“We’ve had 3 meetings where we’ve set targets and made plans. But my child still is not meeting their targets. We said that we’d look at these if they were not being met.

“We've had advice from the speech and language therapist and educational psychologist, but I think my child needs an EHC needs assessment to get more support.”

Include information from your:

  • SEN review meetings
  • any other agreements
  • parts of your child’s developmental history that explain the difficulties they are having at school

Model letter: complaining when your child is not getting enough SEN support (IPSEA)

Delays to EHCP needs assessments

Legally, local authorities must do EHC needs assessments even if this is hard for them.

Local authorities must do this within 20 weeks. This starts when you ask for an assessment if your child is eligible. If they are going to take longer than 20 weeks, they must consult you.

If your local authority thinks your child is not eligible for an assessment, they must say why within 6 weeks.

If there are delays to your child's EHCP assessment, ask your local authority to explain why.

Contact your Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Services (SENDIASS) if they do not give you an explanation. Look on your local authority’s website.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

You can appeal if the authority decides not to assess your child

If your local authority says they do not think your child needs an assessment, you can appeal.

The local authority must send details about how to appeal with the assessment decision. This includes:

  • the time limit for appealing
  • the right to consider mediation
  • the availability of information, advice and support resolution services

Appealing refusal to assess for an EHC plan (IPSEA)

Before the assessment

If your child is getting SEN support, collect anything that shows your child is not making expected progress. Keep the original documents and send copies.

For example:

  • referrals to doctors, occupational therapy or speech and language therapists
  • letters or reports from health professionals, including any you’ve paid for
  • a report by an educational psychologist
  • notes on meetings you have had with teachers on how your child is not meeting their SEN outcomes
  • your child’s school record, which should include school reports and any SEN support records

Model letter: Asking for a copy of a child’s school record (IPSEA)

What happens in an EHC needs assessment

Most assessments include a:

  • headteacher
  • doctor
  • educational psychologist

Another professional may come too. For example, a social worker. Your child’s views are also important.

What happens in an EHC needs assessment (IPSEA)

Private assessments

Your local authority will provide an educational psychologist during the assessment process. The psychologist will try to find out what your child can do and the things they find harder to do.

If you prefer, you can pay for a private assessment. Find out how much this will cost.

  1. Find an educational psychologist in the directory of chartered psychologists (British Psychological Society).
  2. Check that they are registered with the Health and Care Professional Council.

After the assessment

If you do not get an EHCP

You can appeal if your local authority assesses your child but decides not to give them an EHC plan. A rejection is sometimes called a ‘non-statutory’ EHCP.

EHCP declined, appeals and SEND tribunal

You get an EHCP

If your local authority agrees that your child needs an EHC plan, they will prepare a draft plan and send you a copy to review. Throughout the process, they must include both:

  • your views
  • your child’s views, unless your child is not able to share them

Your local authority should give you 15 days to comment on the draft EHCP. Your feedback is sometimes called ‘representations’.

You can also ask for a meeting with the local authority.

What an EHC plan contains (IPSEA)

Example EHC plans, including outcomes (Council for Disabled Children)

Saying you do not agree with the draft EHCP

The draft plan is where you can make suggestions, correct any mistakes or challenge any recommendations you disagree with. You can say if you do not think the draft plan will help your child to meet their agreed outcomes. You should also say why you think this.

Annual reviews

Your child’s EHCP must have a formal annual review within 12 months of the final plan or the last review. The annual review is a way you can raise concerns or suggest changes if you’re not happy with the content of an EHC plan.

Asking for an early annual review

Model letter: Complaining when the LA has not completed an annual review (IPSEA)

Your mental health

Being a parent can be hard. Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is important. Everyone manages their mental health differently. 

If you need support, here are some things you could try:

Managing your mental health

Support groups for parents

Navigate parent mentoring

Sleep Right, for parents and carers of disabled children who want to improve their child's sleep

Last reviewed by Scope on: 22/08/2023

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