An education, health and care plan (EHCP) is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through SEN support. EHCPs identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs to secure the best possible outcomes for them across education, health and social care and, as they get older, prepare them for adulthood.

Local authorities use the information from an EHC assessment to:
• establish and record the views, interests and aspirations of the parents and child or young person
• provide a full description of the child or young person’s special educational needs and any health and social care needs
• establish outcomes across education, health and social care based on the child or young person’s needs and aspirations
• specify the provision required and how education, health and care services will work together to meet the child or young person’s needs and support the achievement of the agreed outcomes

EHC assessment timescales
There are a number of timescales – called statutory timescales – set out in the SEN Code of Practice which local authorities and other organisations must adhere to.

From the point when an assessment is requested until the final EHC plan is issued, the whole process must take no more than 20 weeks (there are some exemptions to this such as school holiday dates – see the Code of Practice for these).

The EHC assessment and preparation of the plan must be completed as soon as possible. If you agree, it may be possible to carry out steps much more quickly than the statutory timescales, but you should not be put under pressure to agree things more quickly than you feel comfortable with.

Local authorities must tell you whether they will carry out an EHC needs assessment within six weeks from when they receive a request for one.

When local authorities request information from others such as therapists or doctors as part of the assessment process, they must respond within a maximum of six weeks from the date of the request.

Following an assessment, if a local authority decides not to issue an EHC plan, they must inform you within a maximum of 16 weeks from the date of the request for an EHC needs assessment. They should also give reasons for this decision and advice for what steps to take next.
If a draft EHC plan is issued, you must be given at least 15 days to give your views on this and say what school or setting you would like your child or young person to attend.

The final EHC plan must be issued within a 20-week overall time limit.

Requesting an EHC assessment
You can ask your local authority to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an EHC plan. A young person can request an assessment themselves if they’re aged 16 to 25. A request can also be made by anyone else who thinks an assessment may be necessary, including doctors, health visitors, teachers, parents and family friends.

If they decide to carry out an assessment, you may be asked for any reports from your child’s school, nursery or childminder; doctors’ assessments of your child and /or a letter from you about your child’s needs.

The local authority will tell you within six weeks whether an EHC assessment is going to be carried out.

What is an EHC needs assessment
An EHC needs assessment is a comprehensive assessment, in order to find out exactly what your child or young person’s special educational needs are and the special help he or she might need.

School are often able to meet the needs of children through SEN support but sometimes a child or young person needs a more intensive level of specialist help that cannot be met from the resources available to schools and other settings to provide SEN support.

In these circumstances, you or your child’s school or other setting could consider asking your local authority for an EHC needs assessment for your child. This assessment may lead to your child getting an EHC plan. Some children and young people will have needs that clearly require an EHC needs assessment and plan and once the local authority is aware of them it should start this process without delay.

Deciding whether a EHC plan is needed
After the local authority has made its assessment – which must involve you and your child fully in the process – it will decide whether or not an EHC plan is necessary. If they decide an EHCP is not needed, they must tell you within 16 weeks of the date they received a request for an assessment.

Preparing an EHC plan
If the local authority decides an EHC plan is needed, they should work closely with you and your child to make sure the plan takes full account of your views, wishes and feelings. Once the plan has been written, a draft will be sent to you which must not contain the name of the school or other setting your child will attend.
You will be given 15 days to comment on the draft and you can ask for a meeting to discuss it if you want one. At that point you will also be able to request a specific school, or other setting, you want your child to attend. This could be a mainstream school or special school. Your local authority has 20 weeks from the request for the EHC needs assessment to issue the final plan to you.

The final EHC Plan
If you suggest any changes to the draft EHC plan and these are agreed by the local authority, the draft plan should be amended and issued as the final EHC plan as quickly as possible. The local authority must not make any other changes apart from incorporating your agreed amendments and naming the placement – if the local authority wishes to make other changes it must re-issue the draft EHC plan to you.

The final EHC plan should be signed and dated by the local authority officer responsible for signing off the final plan.

Where you have suggested changes which are not agreed, the local authority may still proceed to issue the final EHC plan. If this happens, the local authority must notify you of your right to appeal to the Tribunal and the time limit for doing so, of the requirement for you to consider mediation should you wish to appeal, and the availability of information, advice and support and disagreement resolution services.

The local authority should also notify you how you can appeal the health and social care provision in the EHC plan.

As well as the child’s parent or the young person, the final EHCP must also be issued to the governing body, proprietor or principal of any school, college or other institution named in the EHC plan, and to the relevant CCG (or where relevant, NHS England).

Where a nursery, school or college is named in an EHC plan, they must admit the child or young person. The head teacher or principal of the school, college or other institution named in the EHC plan should ensure those teaching or working with your child or young person are aware of their needs and have arrangements in place to meet them. Institutions should also ensure teachers and lecturers monitor and review your child or young person’s progress during the course of a year.

Once an EHC plan has been finalised, your local authority has to ensure the SEN support in section F of the plan is provided, and the health service has to ensure the health support in section G is provided.

Your local authority has to review your child’s EHC plan at least every 12 months. That review has to include working with you and your child and asking you what you think and what you want to happen, and a meeting which you must be invited to.

Disagreeing with a decision
You can challenge your local authority about:
• their decision to not carry out an assessment
• their decision to not create an EHC plan
• the special educational support in the EHC plan
• the school named in the EHC plan
If you can’t resolve the problem with your local authority, you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal.

Personal budgets
You may be able to get a personal budget for your child if they have an EHCP or have been told they need one. It allows you to have a say in how to spend the money on support for your child. There are three ways you can use your personal budget. You can have:
• direct payments made into your account – you buy and manage services yourself
• an arrangement with your local authority or school where they hold the money for you but you still decide how to spend it (sometimes called ‘notional arrangements’)
• third-party arrangements – you choose someone else to manage the money for you
You can have a combination of all three options.

What should be in an EHCP
The SEND Code of Practice sets out some key requirements and principles about EHCPs:
• decisions about the content should be made openly and collaboratively with parents, children and young people
• EHCPs should positively describe achievements
• EHCPs should be clear, concise, understandable and accessible
• EHCPs must specify the outcomes sought for a child or young person
• EHCPs should show how education, health and care provision should be coordinated to best achieve agreed outcomes
• EHCPs should consider how best to achieve outcomes and account must be taken of any innovative or alternative ways to receive support sought by the young person or parent
• EHCPs should describe how family and community support can help in achieving agreed outcomes
• EHCPs should be forward looking and anticipate and plan for important transition points in a child or young person’s life, including transition into adult life
• EHCPs should have a review date.
The format of an EHCP will be agreed locally, so you may find they look slightly different, county to county.
However, as a statutory minimum, EHCPs must include the following sections, which must be separately labelled from each other using the letters below.

Section A – the views interests and aspirations of the child and their parents, or of the young person:
Section B – the child or young person’s special educational needs (SEN)
Section C – the child or young person’s health needs related to their SEN
Section D – the child or young person’s social care needs related to their SEN
Section E – the outcomes sought for the child or young person
Section F – special educational help or provision required to address the child or young person’s needs
Section G – the health provision reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN
Section H1 – the special social care services that must be provided as a result of section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (CSDPA)
Section H2 – any other social care provision reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN
Section I – the name and type of school that the child should go to
Section J – how a personal budget (if any) will be used
Section K – supplementary information gathered during the needs assessment
Maintaining provision in EHC plans

Educational: Where an EHC plan is maintained for a child or young person the local authority must secure the special educational provision specified in the plan. If a local authority names an independent school or college in the plan it must also meet the costs of the fees, including any boarding where relevant.
Social care: For the social care provision specified in the plan, existing duties on social care services to assess and provide for the needs of disabled children and young people under the Children Act 1989 continue to apply. Where the local authority decides it is necessary to make provision for a disabled child or young person under 18 pursuant to Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Person Act (CSDPA) 1970, it must secure that provision. Where the young person is over 18, the care element of the EHC plan will usually be provided by adult services.
Health: For health care provision specified in the EHC plan, the CCG (or where relevant NHS England) must ensure that it is made available to the child or young person.

Here’s what a Torbay Council EHCP looks like

You can find out how to get local support through Torbay Council’s Local Offer. The Code of Practice is available online.

Torbay Council: Self Assessment of our SEND Implementation