The Secretary of State for Education has issued a notice under the Coronavirus Act. This temporarily modifies some aspects of the law that applies to children and young people with Education Health and Care (EHC) plans.
The changes are designed to balance the needs of children and young people with the ability of local authorities and health services to respond to the outbreak.
There are two main changes:
- Local authorities and health commissioning bodies no longer have an absolute duty to arrange the provision set out in an EHC plan. Instead, they have to use “reasonable endeavours”. This means that they must consider for each child and young person with an EHC plan what they can reasonably provide in the circumstances, during the notice period (1 May to 31 May, but can be extended).
- Local authorities no longer have to meet the timescales for EHC needs assessments and plans (including for annual reviews) where this is not possible because of coronavirus. They will have to complete the process as soon as reasonably practical. This applies from 1 May to 25 September.
All other aspects of SEND law remain unchanged. Local authorities must still consider requests for EHC needs assessments or re-assessments, they must get all of the required advice and information, and they must have regard to the views and wishes of the family. Annual reviews must still be carried out (but may be done via telephone or video link). Settings named in an EHC plan must still admit the child or young person.
Government guidance says that families need to be told:
- What provision will be made for their child and the reason for any difference from what is specified in their EHC plan
- Where a delay in relation to coronavirus is likely, and when decisions will be made as part of the various processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans
The local authority or health commissioning body should keep a record of changes to provision, and keep this provision under review. They must not apply blanket policies.
Guidance on the changes published by the government
Information for families published by Sheffield City Council