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

If your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), they may benefit from a support plan. This might be an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Or, it might be an Individualised Education Program (IEP).

It can be difficult to understand what these plans are and how they are different. It can also be confusing to work out whether your child is eligible for one, and how to access one.

We’re here to help you understand what they are, what they do, what the difference is, and how to apply for one.

a teenager sits at a computer in school

What does SEN mean?

The term ‘SEN’ covers:

  • Emotional and behavioural difficulties.
  • Cognitive difficulties (understanding, processing and learning).
  • Speech, language and communication.
  • Sensory or physical difficulties (including medical conditions and visual/hearing impairments).
  • Legally, a child has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or a disability which requires special educational provision.

What is an EHCP or IEP?

  • EHCPs and IEPs provide a support plan for your child. They focus on your child’s individual needs. Their aim is to enable your child to do better at school and achieve their full potential.
  • An EHCP or IEP could be helpful if your child has additional needs and would benefit from extra support in school. They do not need to have a diagnosis.
  • EHCP stands for ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’. It outlines any special educational needs that your child has. It also covers the provision your Local Authority must put in place to help your child.
  • IEP stands for ‘Individualised Education Program’. You can work with your child’s school and support team to develop a plan to help them succeed in school. The IEP sets out your child’s goals for the school year, and any special support needed to help achieve them.

What is the difference between the two?

  • The IEP is something that your child’s school can create and put in place.
  • A school can create an IEP to support any child. This is often done before applying for an EHCP. It might be instead of an EHCP, if the school can meet your child’s additional needs themselves.
  • The EHCP is a legal document. That means your Local Authority have a legal obligation to provide the support in the plan.
  • An EHCP 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.

Does my child need a diagnosis for an EHCP or IEP?

  • No. It is not necessary to have a formal diagnosis when implementing an IEP or applying for an EHCP.
  • To apply for an EHCP, you will need to have identified Special Educational Needs. A diagnosis would often be underway when applying.
  • However, the application process can begin before a formal diagnosis.

What happens if my child is identified as needing an IEP or EHCP?

  • Your child’s school will have an SEN register or plan.
  • The school SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) manages the SEN register. They will add your child to the register if your child needs additional support (for a range of reasons).
  • The school should then speak to you and create an IEP for your child. It will cover the support that they are able to give your child. They will discuss with you how they will provide the support. Read our article on working with your child’s school to get SEN support.
  • If your child is identified as needing more support, the next step would usually be to apply for an EHCP. The Local Authority will only approve the EHCP if your child’s needs are not being met by the measures on the IEP.
  • It is important that the school is open with you and takes into account your feelings and views. They should keep you involved in any issues your child is facing and the impact on their education.

Who can apply for an EHCP?

  • For children aged 0-16, you can apply on their behalf.
  • For young people aged 16-25, they can apply themselves or you can make a request on their behalf.
  • Your child’s school or early years setting may offer to write and request an EHC needs assessment.
  • However, if you make the request yourself you can be sure that the request has definitely been made.
  • Gov.uk have an overview of the process of applying for an EHCP.
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