SEND in England: Education, health and care plans

This page covers education, health and care (EHC) plans.

It explains what they are, how to get one, what they look like, how long the process takes, how long they last, how often they should be reviewed and when they end. 

There are also links to pages telling you what to do if you are refused an EHC plan or refused the assessment process for getting one.

You’ll also find information on support with higher education.

On this page:

Special educational needs and disability (SEND) support is available to all children and young people with SEND, aged 0–25, as long as they are in education or training.

The support will vary according to their needs. It may involve a range of professionals across the education, health and social care systems.

The three ways you can get SEND support are:

1. Through support in your local area: The Local Offer.

2. Through support in the setting, including:

3. Through education, health and care plans. 

On this page, we look at education, health and care plans.

What is an Education, Health and Care Plan and who can get one?

An education, health and care plan (EHC plan) is for children and young people who need more than SEN support.

It can run from birth up to a maximum age of 25.

An EHC plan is a legal document that: 

  • Describes a child or young person’s educational, health and social care needs.
  • Explains the extra support they will get to meet those needs.
  • Explains how that support will support them to achieve what they want in life.

Although the EHC plan can include health or social care needs, your child will not get an EHC plan if their needs do not affect their education.

To find out if your child can get this extra support, they will need an education, health and care needs assessment to see whether they need an EHC plan.

Who can ask for an education, health and care needs assessment? 

You can ask your local authority to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an EHC plan.

Anyone else who thinks your child might need an assessment, including doctors, health visitors, teachers, parents and family friends, can also ask for one.

A young person aged 16–25 can ask for one for themselves, as long as they have the mental capacity to do so.

What does the local authority need to carry out an assessment?

If the local authority decides 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.
  • A letter from you about your child’s needs.

How long does the EHC plan process take?

  1. The local authority should tell you within 16 weeks whether your child is going to get an EHC plan. 
  2. Your local authority creates a draft EHC plan and send you a copy.
  3. You have 15 days to comment, including saying whether you want your child to go to a special school or special college.
  4. Your local authority has 20 weeks from the date it receives the request for the assessment to give you the final EHC plan.

This is what should happen. But many families find that this is not the case. It can take a lot of determination over a longer period of time to achieve the right outcome for your child.

When the local authority sends you the final plan, it must also send you a letter informing you of your right to mediation and appeal.

Read more about challenging decisions, appeals and tribunals.

What does an EHC plan look like?

There is no national standard format for the EHC plan. However, it must have clearly labelled sections:

A. The views, interests and aspirations of you and your child.
B. Special educational needs.
C. Health needs related to special educational needs.
D. Social care needs related to special educational needs.
E. Outcomes – how the extra help will benefit your child.
F. Special educational provision (support).
G. Health provision.
H. Social care provision.
I. Placement – type and name of school or other institution (blank in the draft plan). 
J. Personal budget arrangements.
K. Advice and information – a list of the information gathered during the education, health and care needs assessment.

Can the local authority refuse to do an assessment?

Yes, the local authority can refuse if they don’t think your child needs an education, health and care needs assessment. 

It may feel that there is not enough evidence that your child’s difficulties are severe enough. 

Or it may decide that a mainstream education setting can provide all the support your child needs.

If the local authority refuses your child an education, health and care needs assessment, you can appeal this decision.

Find out more about how to make an appeal.

Can the local authority refuse to give your child an EHC plan?

Yes, an education, health and care needs assessment does not always lead to a child or young person receiving an EHC plan. 

For example, the local authority might decide that the child’s or young person’s needs can be met by the school in other ways.

If the local authority is not going to give your child an EHC plan, it must write to you within 16 weeks to tell you this. 

You will have the right to appeal and the local authority must give you information about this. 

If my child gets an EHC plan, what school or college can they go to?

If your child has an EHC plan, they can go to a mainstream school or a special school, or a mainstream or specialist sixth form or further education college, depending on their needs.

In special schools, there are only pupils with SEND, usually with complex needs.

Special schools usually have specially trained teachers, therapists and special equipment to support pupils’ needs.

How long does an EHC plan last?

An EHC plan stays in place until your child leaves education, or the local authority decides that your child no longer needs the EHC plan to help them in their education. 

If you move to another local authority, the EHC plan should be transferred. 

Is an EHC plan reviewed and when does it happen?

An EHC plan should be reviewed at least once a year (annually). 

Your child’s first annual review should take place within 12 months of first getting the EHC plan.

What is involved in an EHC plan review?

The annual review is a formal process that follows specific legal requirements, including a formal meeting.

The local authority is responsible for annual reviews, but it is usually the school that organises the review meeting.

Before the review

Everyone who needs to be at the review should be given two weeks’ notice of the meeting.

They should all send in reports of how your child is getting on, which everyone should see before you all meet.

This information gathering stage is really important, especially if you and your family want changes to your EHC plan.

The following people should all be invited:

  • Parents or caregiver.
  • If your child is 16 or over, the invitation to the meeting should go to them.
  • Someone from your child’s school or college.
  • LA officer for education.
  • LA officer for social care.
  • A healthcare professional.
  • Anyone else who’s relevant, such as a job coach.

It’s a good idea to prepare notes before the meeting, setting out anything you think needs to change.

In the review

In the review, you’ll all talk through your child’s progress and anything they need to support their goals.

If outcomes have been achieved or need to be changed, new outcomes should be chosen.

It’s important a detailed record of the discussion is kept.

After the review

Everyone who came to the meeting or supplied information will receive a copy of the notes.

Then the LA will review your plan and tell you what they’ve decided within four weeks of the meeting.

They may decide to either:

  • Change the EHC plan.
  • Leave the EHC plan as it is.
  • Stop the EHC plan.

At this stage, you will have around 15 days to make comments or ask for changes. This is called ‘making representations’.

If your child is moving to a new place of education, at this stage you can also name the school or college you want them to attend.

Within eight weeks of sending the draft plan, you should receive the final EHC plan from the LA, or a decision not to amend it.

When does an EHC plan end?

An EHC plan will stop in one of two situations:

  1. When the LA is no longer responsible for your child.
  2. If your child’s needs change so they don’t need an EHC plan anymore.

Your LA is no longer responsible when your child:

  • Starts working.
  • Go to university.
  • Leave education completely.
  • Turn 25 years old.
  • Move to a different LA.

If you are over 18 with an EHC plan

Your LA shouldn’t take away your EHC PLAN if you are over 18 but need longer in education or training to achieve your outcomes, or if you’d benefit from new outcomes.

And they shouldn’t insist you work towards qualifications, employment or independent living. Your outcomes may be different and you should still be able to have support.

This content was last reviewed in April 2022. We’ll review it again next year.