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Here is a useful guide to the EHCP process, timeline, and what to expect.

An EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) is a legal document drawn up by the local authority and includes input from health, social care, and educational psychology as appropriate. An EHCP is required when a child with SEN requires additional support to meet needs, which falls outside the school’s typical funding budget. This can be applied for either by the school or as a parent.

It can be quite a lengthy process, and the local authority is required to meet timelines. Unfortunately, the process can appear quite complicated and timelines can be missed. Read on to find a simplified version of the process, including tips and timelines.

Needs assessment request

This is the first step of the process and when the timeline begins. This request can be submitted by either the educational setting or the parent. It needs to demonstrate why your child has special educational needs and why these needs cannot be met without additional support/funding.

The application does not guarantee a needs assessment will be carried out and often applications can be rejected at this stage, so its important that as much information is supplied (with evidence) as possible. This could include diagnosis/diagnosis pending, letters or reports from professionals, such as paediatricians, CAMHS, SALT, OT, etc. An EHCP is not just for children experiencing academic challenges but also covers health / medical needs and social, emotional, and mental health so be sure to detail everything. Remember the criteria to assess is that the child may have SEN so a formal diagnosis is not necessary.

Week 1-6 Decision to assess

Once the application is received the local authority has 6 weeks to review the application and evidence and decide whether a needs assessment is appropriate. For the local authority (LA) to make an informed decision, they may need to contact other bodies for information and you will need to consent to this. Once the decision has been made the LA will inform in writing, detailing the outcome and the next steps. If the application is successful, the LA will contact various parties for input, including professionals involved in care, parents and the child.

If the LA rejects the application and refuses a needs assessment, you can mediate and/or appeal. Along with the response, the LA will send the details of your local SENDIASS who can help with mediation, appeals, and advocacy. There are deadlines to meet if you wish to appeal – these will be detailed in the response – please ensure you note these. Currently the timeline to appeal is within 2 months, and you will need a mediation certificate from SENDIASS in order to proceed.

Week 6-12 Information gathering and review

Any parties that have been contacted for information have 6 weeks to respond to requests. Once received the LA can review and decide whether to issue a plan or not. If successful the LA will start drafting the plan using the information received. Families cannot request specific adjustments be added, all adjustments must be recommended from within the professional reports.

If the decision is made not to issue a plan, then parents must be informed along with reasons and appeal information. Appeals must be lodged by week 16

Week 13 – 16

If a plan is to be issued then the draft must be ready by week 14, and the parents have 15 days to respond, to either agree or request changes and name the school or school type, eg mainstream or specialist. Once the response is received the LA has then a further 15 days to consult the school to ensure the school is able to meet the needs and provide all adjustments in the EHCP. The school may not feel they can meet needs and the LA may not agree with the parent’s wishes, and often this is something to be discussed further.

Week 17 – 20

This is the end part of the process. Once the EHCP has been drafted, and all parties involved have had the opportunity to review and respond, the LA has to issue the final plan by week 20. All parties should receive a copy, including the family, the school and appropriate professionals.

In an ideal world, this process would always take 20 weeks, but realistically the process can be halted a number of times and take much longer. However it is a legal requirement to meet the timelines set out wherever possible. If you are applying for an EHCP, keep this timeline in mind, keep in contact with the LA and where possible keep driving the process forward to ensure a timely outcome.

This guide is correct as of the date of publishing. If in doubt please refer to the dates sent to you by your LA as processes can be updated

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