How to apply for an Education, Health and Care Plan

When applying for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for your child, the first step is to request an EHC needs assessment from your local authority. If you’re making the request yourself, you might find our sample ‘request for assessment’ letter helpful.

Once you’ve sent the request, your local authority should reply within six weeks to let you know whether or not they’ve agreed to carry out a needs assessment.

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How long does it take to get an EHCP?

The whole EHCP process from requesting a needs assessment for your child to receiving the final plan should take no longer than 20 weeks. 

All local authorities must work within the statutory guidance as outlined in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2015. Here’s a timeline of the process:

 Week  Action  Right to appeal
 One Send a request for an EHC needs assessment to the local authority. (This request can be from a parent, young person, school or other professional.)
 Six You’ll receive a letter from the local authority telling you whether they’ve agreed to carry out a needs assessment. They’ll then collect professional reports which are reviewed by a panel within the local authority.  If the local authority decides not to assess, you can appeal this decision.
 16 The local authority completes the needs assessment and decides whether to draft an EHCP.  If the local authority decides not to draft a plan, you can appeal the decision.
 16-20 The local authority sends you a draft EHCP. You have 15 calendar days to send back any comments.  N/A
 20  The final EHCP is issued and ready to use.  If you’re not happy with the content of the final EHCP, you can appeal the decision.

How does the EHCP process work?

Your process begins when you submit your ‘request for assessment’ letter to the local authority. You can find out more about this on your local authority website.

Top tips

  • Always ask in writing and keep a record of the date. 
  • We strongly recommend that you send your letter by recorded delivery.  
  • You can also send it as an attachment to an email, again to ensure you have confirmation of delivery.
  • The clock doesn’t officially start ticking until the local authority has received your ‘request for assessment’ letter.
  • While you’re waiting to hear back from your local authority about whether they’ll complete a needs assessment, you may want to start thinking about Section A (often referred to as the ‘All About Me’ document), which relates to the views, wishes and aspirations of your child and your family. Take a look at our guidance on completing Section A of your child’s Education, Health and Care Plan’.

The decision and next steps

The local authority responds with a ‘refusal to assess’ your child’s needs – what happens next? 

You have two possible options:

  1. You can appeal the decision by contacting the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal Helpline (SENDIST) on 01325 289 350 or email
  2. You can explore what other support is available through ‘the local offer’. This is often referred to as special educational needs support, or the ‘graduated approach’. For more information on this, go to our guide on the graduated approach.

Take a look at a sample local authority ‘refusal to assess’ letter, which outlines your right to mediation (a private dispute resolution procedure) and/or appeal.

What happens once the local authority agrees to assess your child’s needs?

At this stage, your local authority contacts any professionals who are supporting your child to ask them to carry out assessments (if new ones are required) and share their reports.

These reports should contain recommendations that can be included in the EHCP to help meet your child’s needs in the best possible way.

Top tip

  • While you’re waiting to hear from your local authority about whether they’ll be drafting an EHCP for your child, you may want to consider contacting your local authority Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Officer (SENDO). You can ask them to share copies of the professionals’ reports with you, so that you can  check they reflect your child’s needs.

Examples of EHC needs assessment requests and refusals

We're here to answer your queries

Contact us if you need more information about the EHCP process.

0800 781 1444