Signposting - Special educational needs - SEN assessment


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Section: Signposting

Subsection: Signposting - Special educational needs

SEN assessment

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In order to get extra support to help your child's learning, at school or at home, it may be necessary to have a special educational needs assessment. This is the way in which the local authority assesses your child’s needs and decides what is necessary to meet those needs. Normally, reports will be obtained from doctors and any other relevant professionals.

The local authority may then decide to write a My Support Plan or a My Plan (known nationally as an Education, Health and Social Care Plan or EHCP) to explain what it will provide or arrange for your child. More information about My Support Plans, My Plans and how the SEND Service can support you and your child can be found [here]

Wiltshire has worked hard to engage with families to explore creative person centred solutions that will enable their young people to remain in their community and explore the aspirations they describe in their My Plans. If the SEND Service is not able to meet the needs of a young person locally, they would work with the family to explore options outside of Wiltshire to meet the needs and aspirations identified in the My Plan.

Local authorities do not always agree to carry out SEN assessments and, if they do, they do not always decide that a formal plan is appropriate. If you want to dispute this, or dispute the contents of a My Plan (EHCP), you may be able to appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal. Further details can be found here on the [Wiltshire Local Offer website].

For general NHS information about SEN assessment, visit the [special educational needs page] of the NHS Choices website. You can also get friendly help with all aspects of assessment and statementing on the Carers Direct helpline 0808 802 0202

From 3rd April 2018, there are some changes to tribunal appeal arrangements as part of a two year national trial, this will be called the Single Route of Redress.

Trial to make Non-Binding Decisions about Health and Social Care Aspects of EHC Plans

In April 2018, the Department for Education began a national trial to extend the powers of the SEND Tribunal to hear appeals, and make non-binding decisions about, health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care plans. The Trial was due to end on 31st August 2020.

However, given the pressures local areas and families are under as a result of coronavirus, Vicky Ford (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families), announced on 18th June 2020 that the Department for Education are extending the Trial until 31 August 2021.

You can find more about the national trial in the Single Route of Redress – National Trial article below.

Single Route of Redress – National Trial

The Government are extending the powers of the First-tier Tribunal (SEND), sometimes referred to as the ‘SEND Tribunal’, to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans as part of a two-year trial. The trial will apply to decisions made or EHC plans issued/amended from 3rd April 2018.

Until now, parents have only been able to appeal the educational aspects of EHC plans. The trial gives parents new rights to request recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision specified in EHC plans, in addition to the educational aspects, when making a SEND appeal. This gives parents the opportunity to raise all concerns about an EHC plan in one place.

It is only possible for the Tribunal to consider the health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan where you are already making an appeal in relation to the education aspects of the EHC plan and the education aspect must remain live throughout the appeal.

What does this mean for parents and young people?

If you are unhappy with a decision not to issue an EHC plan, or with the special educational content or placement in the plan, you can make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal. This trial now gives parents the opportunity to also request recommendations about the health and social care content of the plan at the same time. This will mean the Tribunal will take a more holistic, person-centred view of the needs of your child or young person.

This does not prevent you also complaining about other aspects of your disagreement through other complaint procedures. You should seek advice about the different routes available, including from your local Information Advice and Support Service (IASS), in Wiltshire we know this service as W.I.S.A.

If the SEND Tribunal makes a recommendation about health or social care elements of an EHC plan, this is non-binding. The local authority and/or health commissioner is generally expected to follow such recommendations, but they are not legally binding. Where they are not followed, the reasons for not following them must be explained and set-out in writing to you and to the Department for Education through the evaluators. If they are not followed, you can complain to the [Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman] (LGSCO) or [Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman] (PHSO) or seek to have the decision judicially reviewed. Further information on the roles of these bodies can be found on their websites.

When can a parent or young person request recommendations about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan?

You can request the Tribunal makes recommendations about the health and/or social care aspects of EHC plans as part of an appeal relating to:-

  • the description of the child/young person’s special educational needs in an EHC plan
  • the special educational provision specified in an EHC plan
  • the school or other educational institution named in an EHC plan
  • a decision by the local authority not to issue an EHC plan
  • a decision by the local authority not to carry out a re-assessment for a child/young person who has an EHC plan
  • a decision by the local authority not to amend an EHC plan following a review or re-assessment
  • a decision by the local authority to cease to maintain an EHC plan

What does this mean for local areas?

The Trial places responsibility on local authority SEND teams to:-

  1. Inform parents and young people of their new rights through decision letters and the Local Offer
  2. Provide evidence to the Tribunal from the health and social care bodies in response to any issues raised within the timeframe set by the Tribunal, seeking permission to bring additional witnesses to the hearing as necessary
  3. If a recommendation has been made, send the health and social care response letters to the evaluators at

It also places responsibility on health and social care commissioners to:-

  1. Respond to any request for information and evidence within the timeframe set by the Tribunal
  2. Send a witness to attend the hearing as required
  3. Respond to the parent/young person and the LA SEND team within 5 weeks of a recommendation being made, setting out the steps they have decided to take or giving reasons why they are not going to follow the recommendation.

How can a parent or young person request a health or social care recommendation?

If you wish to appeal against a local authority decision on any of the grounds above and want to request that the Tribunal considers your concerns about the health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan, you should follow the normal process for bringing an appeal to the Tribunal and tick the box on the form relating to a health and/or social care appeal. Advice on making SEND appeals to the Tribunal and the appeal form is available on the [GOV.UK website] and further guidance can be found in the trial [toolkit] of support.

Taking part in the evaluation

There will be an independent evaluation of the trial to inform a decision on whether the new tribunal recommendation powers should be continued after the trial. The evaluation will run alongside the trial, from January 2018 to March 2021.

It is important that the evaluation is based on robust evidence, and the evaluators are therefore strongly encouraging participation from parents and young people. This could include taking part in a telephone or online interview just after the appeal hearing (or when the appeal process has been completed, if earlier), and then a follow-up interview 6 months later. These interviews will help the evaluators to gather the views of parents and young people on the appeal process, as well as identify how recommendations have been implemented and what the (early) impact has been.

Parents and young people who take part in the trial will receive a letter from the Tribunal explaining more about the evaluation and how their personal data will be stored confidentially and how it will be protected.

As a parent or young person, do I have to consider mediation as part of the trial?

Before you can register an appeal with the Tribunal, you must contact a mediation adviser within two months of the LA decision you wish to appeal and consider whether mediation might be a way to resolve your disagreement with the LA. If you want to appeal only about the school or other institution named in the EHC plan you do not have to contact a mediation adviser.

You can go to mediation about the health and social care elements of an EHC plan, but this is not compulsory. You can request recommendations about health and social care issues without having to receive mediation advice or attend mediation about those issues, provided there is also an education issue about which you are appealing.

Once a mediation adviser has been contacted, or once you have taken part in mediation, you will be issued with a certificate. This will be necessary if you are still unhappy and wish to progress to an appeal with the Tribunal. An appeal to the Tribunal must usually be made within two months of the decision about which the appeal is being made or one month following the issuing of the mediation certificate, whichever is the later.

If mediation resolves the educational issues, you will not be able to appeal to the Tribunal on any health and/or social care aspects of the EHC plan. However, mediation provides an opportunity for us to resolve disagreements and it can be completed more quickly than an appeal. It does not affect your right to make an educational appeal, and some aspects of the disagreement can go to appeal even when other aspects are resolved.

Help and further information

  • A guidance document on the national trial is published as part of a [toolkit] of support
  • [KIDS WISA website] or click HERE to see their leaflet
  • The evaluation of the trial is led by IFF Research working with Belmana. For any questions or to get involved please get in touch with them at, freephone: 0800 035 6051.

Post 16 Provision

Wiltshire Council has a Post 16 EHCP Placement Policy which can be found here on the [Local Offer Website].

This document outlines the criteria for assessing the eligibility of young people with Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs*) aged 16-25 when considering post 16 education provision. It has been developed in accordance with the statutory guidance within the new SEND Code of Practice (July 2014). *Please note that EHCPs are known as My Plans in Wiltshire.

In Wiltshire, Young people with EHCPs have access to education that is based on identified outcomes and enables educational progression leading towards the best possible outcomes for adulthood (higher education, employment, independent living and participation in society). All learners are entitled to have their needs and outcomes met in local mainstream provision.

National guidance suggests that it is in the best interests of young people to maintain links and relationships within their own local community, therefore Wiltshire Council supports young people to remain in their local community.

The starting point for all young people in Wiltshire is to reflect national guidance, so when considering appropriate provision for a young person with SEND, local mainstream provision, as close to the young person's own community is always the starting point for planning. However, if provision in a specialist setting is necessary it should be as local as possible. A list of independent providers, including provision in Wiltshire and across the country, approved by the Secretary of State can be found [here].

Parents/ carers told us that they often have to rely on word of mouth to understand what ‘good’ education support looks like or where to find the right provision for their young person. Every educational setting will approach support for young people with special educational needs slightly differently. The Local Offer gives children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) and their families, information about what support services the Local Authority think will be available in their local area; this includes information about colleges and educational specialists. There is further information about the range of post provision on the [POST 16 Provision Page].

What is an EHCP and who is it for?

With support from the Department for Education, Independent Support has produced a short animation film which helps to explain Education, Health & Care Plans (EHCPs) to parents and carers. [Click here] to take a look.