First and foremost, let’s address one of the biggest myths around requesting an Education, Health and Care Assessment for your child or young person.
You can apply for this.
You do not need the School or any other professional to apply for it.
You can do this. It is always, of course, better to work together with the school or professional but if you are told you cannot apply for an assessment, please refer them to Chapter 9.8 of the code of Practice. (Remember, legislation always trumps Local policy.)
Chapter 9.8 – Code of Practice
The following people have a specific right to ask a local authority to conduct an education, health and care needs assessment for a child or young person aged between 0 and 25:
• the child’s parent (*)
• a young person over the age of 16 but under the age of 25, and
• a person acting on behalf of a school or post-16 institution (this should ideally be with the knowledge and agreement of the parent or young person where possible)
* Chapter 9.9 also gives this right to Foster Carers.
Apply for an EHC Assessment?
As stated above, you can apply for an EHC Assessment for your child, if you believe that your child has a learning difficulty or a disability which is stopping them from progressing at school.
Your Local Authority’s website should clearly show how to apply – usually within their Local Offer. Always apply in writing and always keep a copy. Also, pop a note of the date you posted the letter/sent the email into your diary.
If you are unsure what to write, then IPSEA have templates you can use on their website.
SOS SEN also provide template letters.
What is an EHC Assessment?
According to the Department for Education, the majority of children and young people with SEN or disabilities will have their needs met within local mainstream early years settings, schools or colleges (as set out in the information on identification and support in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the Code of Practice).
Some children and young people may require an EHC needs assessment in order for the local authority to decide whether it is necessary for it to make provision in accordance with an EHC plan.
An EHC Assessment is to assess whether it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made. “Whether it may be necessary” is quite a low threshold. The EHC assessment is not there to determine whether it is absolutely necessary for special educational provision to be made, that is what the assessment is for. Local Authorities sometimes confuse this with the legal requirement to issue an EHC Plan and refuse to assess. However, there is now case law to help clarify this.
EHC Assessment – determines whether it may be necessary to make special educational provision
EHC Plans issued when an EHC assessment determines that it is necessary to make special educational provision.
There are two criteria that must be met for the LA to have a statutory duty to perform a needs assessment. These can be found in the Children and Families Act, Section 36, paragraph 8
The Local Authority must secure an EHC needs assessment if, after having regard to any views expressed and evidence submitted under subsection (7), the authority is of the opinion that—
(a) the child or young person has or may have special educational needs, and
(b) it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.
This can also be found in the SEN Code of Practice, Paragraph 9.3
Note the words “must” and “may” in the legislation. If the LA cannot state with authority (and evidenced reasons for their decision) that a child categorically does not have SEN, or categorically does not need ANY provisions in line with an EHC Plan then it is possible to counter that a child “MAY” have SEN and “MAY” require provisions.
An EHC needs assessment will not always lead to an EHC plan. The information gathered during an EHC needs assessment may indicate ways in which the school, college or other provider can meet the child or young person’s needs without an EHC plan.
If the Assessment is refused
If your request for an assessment is refused, then these two questions are often useful to ask the Local Authority:
- Is it fair to say that my child may have Special Educational Needs, and that given the evidence the panel had, you cannot state categorically and provide evidence that s/he does not?
- Is it fair to say that my child may find it necessary to make use of provisions that could be included in an EHC Plan if one were written, and that given the evidence the panel had, you cannot state categorically and provide evidence that s/he would not?
Should both of these points be confirmed with a yes (unless the LA can provide evidence otherwise), then respond with:
“As per the Children and Families Act 2014, and given that you cannot provide evidence otherwise, it is possible that my child may have special educational needs and they may need provision in line with those that would be written in an EHC Plan document. As such, you now have a legal obligation to carry out a full needs assessment”
What should the process involve?
The assessment and planning process should:
- focus on the child or young person as an individual
- enable children and young people and their parents to express their views, wishes and feelings
- enable children and young people and their parents to be part of the decision-making process
- be easy for children, young people and their parents or carers to understand, and use clear ordinary language and images rather than professional jargon
- highlight the child or young person’s strengths and capabilities
- enable the child or young person, and those that know them best to say what they have done, what they are interested in and what outcomes they are seeking in the future
- tailor support to the needs of the individual
- organise assessments to minimise demands on families
- bring together relevant professionals to discuss and agree together the overall approach, and
- deliver an outcomes-focused and co-ordinated plan for the child or young person and their parents (Chapter 9.22 – Code of Practice)
Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that there is effective co-ordination of the assessment and development process for an EHC plan. The co-ordination should include:
- planning the process to meet the needs of children, parents and young people
- timing meetings to minimise family disruption
- keeping the child’s parent or young person informed through a single point of contact wherever possible and ensuring relevant professionals have sufficient notice to be able to contribute to the process (9.30 of the Code of Practice)
(Chapters 9.39 – 9.44 – Code of Practice)
The time limits set out below are the maximum time allowed. However, steps must be completed as soon as practicable.
- Local authorities must give their decision in response to any request for an EHC needs assessment within a maximum of 6 weeks from when the request was received or the point at which a child or young person was brought to the local authority’s attention
- When local authorities request information as part of the EHC needs assessment process, those supplying the information must respond in a timely manner and within a maximum of 6 weeks from the date of the request
- If a local authority decides, following an EHC needs assessment, not to issue an EHC plan, it must inform the child’s parent or the young person within a maximum of 16 weeks from the request for a EHC needs assessment, and
- The child’s parent or the young person must be given 15 calendar days to consider and provide views on a draft EHC plan and ask for a particular school or other institution to be named in it
The whole process of EHC needs assessment and EHC plan development, from the point when an assessment is requested (or a child or young person is brought to the local authority’s attention) until the final EHC plan is issued, must take no more than 20 weeks (subject to exemptions set out below).
Exemptions to Timescales: (SEND Regulations 2014 – Reg 10 (4))
Where there are exceptional circumstances, it may not be reasonable to expect local authorities and other partners to comply with the time limits above. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 set out specific exemptions. These include where:
- appointments with people from whom the local authority has requested information are missed by the child or young person (this only applies to the duty on partners to comply with a request under the EHC needs assessment process within six weeks)
- the child or young person is absent from the area for a period of at least 4 weeks
- exceptional personal circumstances affect the child or his/her parent, or the young person, and
- the educational institution is closed for at least 4 weeks, which may delay the submission of information from the school or other institution (this does not apply to the duty on partners to comply with a request under the EHC needs assessment process within six weeks)
The child’s parent or the young person should be informed if exemptions apply so that they are aware of, and understand, the reason for any delays.
Who is involved?
(Chapters 9.45-9.52 – Code of Practice)
The local authority should consider with the child’s parent or the young person the range of advice required to enable a full EHC needs assessment to take place.
The child’s parent or the young person should be supported to understand the range of assessments available so they can take an informed decision about whether existing advice is satisfactory.
Once decided, the local authority must give to those they are requesting advice from, copies of any representations made by the child’s parent or the young person, and any evidence submitted by or at the request of the child’s parent or the young person. (9.50 of the Code of Practice)
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.
In seeking advice and information, the local authority should consider with professionals what advice they can contribute to ensure the assessment covers all the relevant education, health and care needs of the child or young person.
- Advice and information from the child’s parent or the young person. The local authority must take into account his or her views, wishes and feelings
- Educational advice and information from the manager, headteacher or principal of the early years setting, school or post-16 or other institution attended by the child or young person. Where this is not available the authority must seek advice from a person with experience of teaching children or young people with SEN, or knowledge of the provision which may meet the child’s or young person’s needs. Where advice from a person with relevant teaching experience or knowledge is not available and the child or young person does not attend an educational institution, the local authority must seek educational advice and information from a person responsible for educational provision for the child or young person
- If the child or young person is either vision or hearing impaired, or both, the educational advice and information must be given after consultation with a person who is qualified to teach pupils or students with these impairments
- Medical advice and information from health care professionals with a role in relation to the child’s or young person’s health (see the section later in this chapter on agreeing the health provision in EHC plans)
- Psychological advice and information from an educational psychologist who should normally be employed or commissioned by the local authority. The educational psychologist should consult any other psychologists known to be involved with the child or young person
- Social care advice and information from or on behalf of the local authority, including, if appropriate, children in need or child protection assessments, information from a looked after child’s care plan, or adult social care assessments for young people over 18. In some cases, a child or young person may already have a statutory child in need or child protection plan, or an adult social care plan, from which information should be drawn for the EHC needs assessment
- From Year 9 onwards, advice and information related to provision to assist the child or young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living
- Advice and information from any person requested by the child’s parent or young person, where the local authority considers it reasonable to do so. For example, they may suggest consulting a GP or other health professional
- Advice from a youth offending team, where the child or young person is detained in a Young Offender Institution. Where the young person is serving their sentence in the community the local authority should seek such advice where it considers it appropriate
Any other advice and information which the local authority considers appropriate for a satisfactory assessment, for example:
- Early Help Assessments
- in the case of children of members of the Armed Forces, from the Children’s Education Advisory Service
- in the case of a looked after child, from the Virtual School Head in the authority that looks after the child and the child’s Designated Teacher and the Designated Doctor or Nurse for looked after children
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