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Everything You Need to Know about Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCNAs)

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Jessica Wake

Trainee Solicitor

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We come across many frequently asked questions and misconceptions surrounding the assessment process for an EHCP, and one of our team, Jessica Wake, tells you everything you need to know below.

What is an EHCNA?

Before an education, health and care plan (EHCP) can be issued, it is necessary for a Local Authority to undertake an Education, Health, and Care Needs Assessment; in order to properly evaluate your child’s needs. 

A request must usually be made in writing. There may be a specific form on your Local Authority website.  

Can I apply for an EHCNA without the support of the school/SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator)?

You can apply on behalf of your child, or with the school/institution. Schools may request an EHCNA, on behalf of your child, but a parent or a young person has the right to ask a Local Authority to conduct an EHCNA directly. Though you can do it alone as the parent/caregiver, you may find it helpful by discussing your concerns with your child’s school prior to writing to the Local Authority. This is because the school are likely to have helpful information to back your case, and prove that the assessment is needed. 

The Local Authority should usually issue a decision over whether to conduct an  within six weeks of receiving the request. There are limited exceptions to this (e.g. if the request is made near the summer holidays), but it may be possible to take legal action if Local Authorities don’t adhere to time frames. If the Local Authority refuses to complete an EHCNA, you have the right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal.


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Who will be asked for advice?

Your Local Authority needs to look for advice from a range of people, in order to get the best view of the overall situation. The list is set out in Regulation 6(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (the “SEN Regs”):

  1. the child’s parent or the young person;
  2. educational advice (usually from the head teacher or principal);
  3. medical advice and information from a health care professional;
  4. psychological advice and information from an educational psychologist;
  5. advice and information in relation to social care;
  6. advice and information from any other person the local authority thinks appropriate;
  7. where the child or young person is in or beyond year 9, advice and information in relation to provision to assist the child or young person in preparation for adulthood and independent living; and
  8. advice and information from any person the child’s parent or young person reasonably requests that the local authority seek advice from.

Does the Local Authority need to carry out an Educational Psychology assessment before they agree to an EHCNA?

Local Authorities must seek advice from an Education Psychologist during the EHCNA (Needs Assessment) itself.

At the stages where you are applying for an EHCNA, and the Local Authority are considering this, there is no legal requirement for the Local Authority to seek the advice of an Educational Psychologist (EP).

Local Authorities should therefore not refuse your application if you haven’t had an Educational Psychologist’s assessment during the application stage.

Does the child or young person need a specific medical diagnosis to be considered for an EHCNA?

No, your child does not need to have had a diagnosis to be assessed for an EHCP. The Local Authority should consider the child or young person’s individual circumstances and educational needs, rather than simply whether they have a diagnosis. A Local Authority should consider them for an EHCP if:

  • The child or young person ‘has or may have Special Educational Needs’;
  • The child may need Special Educational Provision to be made through an Education, Health and Care Plan.

If you’re unsure, our Education Law team can give you free initial legal advice and can help you with many different types of educational appeals.

Does my child or young person need an EHCP if they’re going to a mainstream school?

Not always. All mainstream schools must lawfully make the ‘best endeavours’ to provide the ‘special educational provision’ needed to meet your child or young person’s additional needs.

If the provision of support costs more than ‘the resources ordinarily available to a mainstream school’, or the support your child needs cannot be met by these resources, then the legal position is that they require an EHCP. 

The important thing to note is that EHCPs can and should be issued for children in mainstream schools, if they’re needed. Children do not need to go to a special school to secure an EHCP – and that should not deter you from going after one if your child needs it. 

You can read more information on finding an appropriate school for your child with SEND to help you decide whether a mainstream or special school might be the best option.

If the Local Authority refuses to carry out an EHCNA, how long do I have to wait to apply again?

If the Local Authority refuses your request for an EHCNA, you should be given a right of appeal to the SEND Tribunal. It is unlawful for the Local Authority not to give you a right of appeal.

You can read more about what you can expect at an SEND Tribunal here. . It can be a confusing process to navigate, but our Education Lawyers have years of experience helping parents through SEND Tribunals and securing the best outcome for the child. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do to help improve your chances in an appeal.

After the Decision

Once you’ve received the Local Authority’s decision on the EHCNA, you’ll need to contact a mediation advisor within two months. You should find their details on the letter your Local Authority sent. A mediation advisor is a professional who provides guidance and support to individuals involved in mediation processes, particularly in legal or dispute resolution matters.

You are not required to engage in mediation, but you have to have considered mediation, and to have discussed this with a mediation advisor. The mediation service will then issue you with a mediation certificate, and you will need to lodge your appeal with the Tribunal within one month of the date on your mediation certificate or within 2 months of the date on the original decision letter depending on which is later.

If you decide not to appeal to the Tribunal, you can apply for an EHCNA again straight away. If the Local Authority still refuses, you’ll be given a further right of appeal.

If a Local Authority carries out an EHCNA and then refuses to issue a plan, you cannot ask them to do another EHCNA for a period of 6 months but you can of course appeal the decision to the Tribunal. .

We know that all sounds daunting, and these issues can be hard for anyone to face – but you are not alone. We have significant experience giving people legal advice and representation on many Special Educational Needs matters, and we will give you friendly advice on every step that you will take. Call us on0808 239 9764, and let us help you.


Legislation.gov.uk. (Publication date not specified). "Children and Families Act 2014, Section 66." Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/6/section/66/enacted

Gov.uk. (Publication date not specified). "The notional SEN budget for mainstream schools: operational guidance." Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pre-16-schools-funding-local-authority-guidance-for-2023-to-2024/the-notional-sen-budget-for-mainstream-schools-operational-guidance

Jessica Wake

Trainee Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Education Law

Jessica is a Paralegal in our Education Law team, providing advice to parents and young people on issues concerning a child’s education.

She advises on Education, Health and Care Plans for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and provides help during SEND Tribunals.

Jessica graduated with a Law with International Business LLM, and is currently studying towards her LPC and LMM post-graduate degree.

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