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SEND in the Early Help Process

SEND support is embedded within the Early Help process.  The Early Help Assessment form will be essential for:

  • SENCOs following the 'Graduated Response' outlined in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice (DfE 2015).
  • Recording evidence of high quality teaching and SEN support in schools and settings using the information and advice set out in Bands 1 and 2 of the Cumbria SEND Handbook.

When an additional need is identified for a child or young person, whether social, emotional, developmental or educational, an Early Help Assessment form can be started to gather information. The emphasis is on assessing all aspects of a child or young person’s strengths, needs and circumstances, developing a plan to meet identified needs and reviewing progress systematically. 

If, following the assess-plan-do-review process, the setting requires support from the Learning Improvement Service or the Inclusion Service e.g. Early Years Area SENCO, Specialist Advisory Teacher or Educational Psychologist to meet the needs of the child or young person then the following should be undertaken: 

  1. Fully complete the EHA form
  2. Decide on one service to request
  3. Gain written parent/carer consent
  4. Send the assessment form to the local SEND office:
  5. Register the assessment with the Early Help Team at: 
  6. Please note that if you wish to refer to Health then you will need to access the relevant Health referral documentation

Where a child or young person is identified as having SEN, educational providers should take action to remove those barriers to learning and put effective special educational provision in place.  This SEN support should take the form of the assess-plan-do-review cycle through which earlier decisions and actions are revisited, refine and revised with a growing understanding of the pupil's needs and of what supports the pupil in making good progress and securing good outcomes.  This is known as the graduated approach.  It draws on the more detailed approaches, requires frequent reviewing and more specialist expertise in successive cycles in order to match the interventions to the SEN of the children and young people.

If a review of interventions indicates a need for statutory assessment then a request for an Education Health and Care Assessment should be made using the specific box on the form.  This requires additional parental permission and supporting evidence.  Guidance regarding supporting evidence can be found in the Cumbria SEND Handbook.

Completion of an Early Help Assessment is part of a continuing process to assess and meet the needs of children and young people.  It is not a one-off application form for additional support.  It is a record of a continuing process.  In some cases where the need is a Special Educational Need and or Disability (SEND), the assessment and review may lead to a request for assessment for an Education, Health and Care Plan but equally may meet the needs of children and young people on its own (taken from the review page of the EH form).  It is acknowledged that cases at Social Care Early Help are often closed  after an initial assessment and short episode of intervention.  Children open at SEND Early Help often need extended assessments and monitoring of intervetnion before they are re-assessed to see if support has helped.  This is a cyclical process of assess-plan-do-review process which forms part of the criteria schools and settings need to follow before requesting an EHCP (a Graduated Response).  It may be that the child needs assessment and intervention by more than one specialist, for example Specialist Advisory Teacher/Educational Psychologist which can also take time.  It may, therefore, be that an external specialist deems it necessary to keep the EH open whilst these extended assessments and monitoring of interventions take place.  This contrasts with the Social Care cases that might be closed earlier.  It is also important to note that the external specialists do not register the EH forms - this is usually done by the school or setting.  However, those professionals are able to negotiate with the setting when it is best to close the Early Help - it is important that all involved with the process are made clear about when to register and close cases.

For any further advice regarding the competion of the Early Help process - please visit the Early Help page on Cumbria's LSCB website:

Where despite the educational establishment having taken appropriate and focussed action to identify, assess and meet the SEN of the child or young person, they have not made expected progress, consideration should be given to requesting an EHC assessment following the information provided in the SEND Handbook and Criteria.   

The Local Authority takes account of the following information when deciding whether a child or young person with a disability or SEN requires a statutory assessment around their Education, Health and Care plan:

The child or young person:

  • has or may have severe or complex long term needs that affect their everyday life; and/or
  • requires or may require provision and resources that are not normally available within a mainstream educational setting; and/or
  • requires or may require intensive help and support from more than one agency; and/or
  • despite relevant and purposeful levels of support being provided by their educational establishment, they are making limited or no progress.


In the case of:

  • an EHC assessment: it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made for the child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan; or
  • an EHC plan: it is necessary for special educational provision to be made for a child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan.

In order that the Local Authority has the information it needs to decide if these criteria are satisfied, it would expect to see proof of:

  • the action taken by a child or young person's school, where they are of statutory school age, including evidence that appropriate interventions, support and resources, which are available through the Local Offer and school's SEN funding, have already been put in place, including the Assess/Plan/Do/Review cycles;
  • the child or young person's failure to make expected progress; and
  • the special educational provision required to meet the child or young person's needs cannot reasonably be provided from with the resources normally available to their setting.

If the team around the child (TAC) or young person including yourself believe they are not making expected progress despite interventions, then they can make a request to the local authority for an EHC needs assessment. 

Once your local authority identifies that your child has SEN or receives a request for an assessment, they have up to six weeks to decide whether to carry one out. During that time, they will ask you and others – such as your child’s or young person’s school or other setting – for information to help them make that decision in conjunction with the SEND Handbook.

It is most helpful to use the early help approach, however, any young person over 16 years or parent of a young person under 16 years may write to the local authority direct to request an assessment.  You can do this by contacting the SEND Teams.  You should include as much information as to why you are making the request as possible and be aware that the local authority wil need to seek other information from other sources to support the request.   

In Cumbria a multi-agency panel will consider request for assessment and will make their decision using the information gathered through the early help process and referring to the SEND Handbook.

If your local authority decides not to carry out an assessment, they need to inform the referrer of the outcome of the request within six weeks of receiving a request for an assessment. If the outcome is that the local authority will not be conducting an assessment the local authority is expected to help you find other ways that your child and young person can be supported in their school or other setting.

For information about what is expected during an assessment please go the next section The Statutory Assessment Process

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