What is an EHCP and an IEP, and how can my child get one?

If your child has additional needs or special educational needs (SEN), a support plan could help. This might be:

  • An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP or EHC plan).
  • An Individual Education Plan (IEP).

IEPs and EHC plans focus on your child’s individual needs, to help them reach their full potential.

a teenager sits at a computer in school

What does SEN or additional needs mean?

Your child may have SEND or additional needs if they experience:

  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • Cognitive difficulties (understanding, processing and learning).
  • Trouble with speech, language and communication.
  • Sensory or physical difficulties (including medical conditions and visual or hearing impairments).

Legally, a child has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or a disability that needs special educational provision.

What's the difference between an IEP and EHCP?

An IEP sets out your child’s goals for the school year, and any special support needed to help achieve them:

  • Your child’s school can create an IEP and put it in place. You can work with the school to develop a plan.
  • A school can create an IEP to support any child. This is often done before applying for an EHC plan. It might be instead of an EHC plan, if the school can meet your child’s needs themselves.

An EHC plan outlines any special educational needs that your child has. It also covers the support your local authority must put in place to help your child:

  • The EHC plan is a legal document. That means your local authority has a legal obligation to provide the support in the plan.
  • An EHC plan request needs to prove that your child’s needs are beyond what the school can provide. Otherwise, the local authority will not consider the request.

      How is the support put in place?

      Your child’s school will have a SEN register or plan. The school special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) manages the SEN register. They will add your child to the register if your child needs extra support.

      • The school should then speak to you and create an IEP for your child. They will cover the support that the school is able to give your child. They’ll explain how they will provide the support. Read our article on working with your child’s school to get SEN support.
      • If your child needs more support, the next step would usually be to apply for an EHC plan. The local council will only approve the EHC plan if your child’s needs are not being met by the measures on the IEP.
      • It’s important that the school is open with you and takes into account your feelings and views. School staff should keep you involved in any issues your child is facing and the impact on their education.

      You do not need to have a formal diagnosis when implementing an IEP or applying for an EHC plan. But to apply for an EHC plan, you will need to have identified likely SEN. A diagnosis would often be underway when applying, but the application process can begin before a formal diagnosis.

      Applying for an EHCP

      As a parent or carer, you can apply for an EHC plan on the behalf of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Young people aged 16-25 can also apply for themselves. Your child’s school or early years setting may offer to write and request an EHC plan needs assessment.

      The school will be asked to provide evidence for an EHC plan application. If school staff don’t think your child needs an EHC plan, you might need to discuss this with them and try to come to an agreement.

      To apply for an EHC plan, read the government’s overview of how to begin the application process. SENDIASS has a template request letter (PDF).

      If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland

      Local authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland don’t issue EHC plans. Instead, you can apply for:   

      More on EHCPs

      If you need help with the process, you can get guidance from SENDIASS (England), the SNAP Cymru (Wales), Contact Scotland (Scotland) or Contact NI (Northern Ireland).

      We also have advice on:

      Go back

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      Can my child’s EHCP be changed?


      Does my child qualify for an EHCP?


      My child’s school won’t support an EHCP application


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