The Secretary of State has made some temporary changes to the law around Education, Health and Care Plans, (EHCPs) and Education, Health and Care needs Assessment. These changes apply from the 1st May 2020 and are to give local authorities and health commissioners more flexibility to respond to the demands placed on them by the coronavirus pandemic.
The DfE has published guidance on these changes, for more information: Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Please note: Some aspects of the law have changed temporarily; and where this has happened, the law has been modified, not disapplied. The duties in law over EHC needs assessments and plans have not been ‘turned off’.
Broadly speaking, there are two main areas where changes may apply:
- How provision is arranged and delivered
- The timescales for assessment and review
The SEND team are in the process of contacting all families of young people who have an EHCP to explain these changes and ensure that reasonable endeavours are being made to make provision for them. More information is below:
Arranging and maintaining provision in EHCPs:
The impact of Coronavirus, (COVID-19) might make it more difficult for local authorities and health commissioners to maintain or arrange the provision specified in a young person’s EHCP.
For this reason, (for a time-limited period), local authorities are being asked to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange provision specified in EHCPS. This means that local authorities and health providers will be working together to identify what can reasonably delivered for each young person under the current circumstances. More information on how this decision will be made can be found here.
For some young people, because of the impact of coronavirus, (COVID-19) the provision offered might be different to that specified in their EHCP for a limited time.
The SEND team are currently making telephone calls to all families of young people with EHCPs to check that reasonable endeavours are being taken to deliver the provision they need.
The government guidance acknowledges that what constitute ‘reasonable endeavors’ will vary depending on the circumstances of each young person.
Temporary changes to timescales for Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans:
There have been some temporary changes made to the rules around the timing of statutory assessments and the issuing of Education, Health and Care Plans. More information: Changes to existing Regulations
In cases where, (because of risks relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus) a statutory deadline cannot be met, the local authority and its partners will now be expected to complete this step, ‘as soon as is practicable to do so’.
These amended timescales are applicable to the following:
- the handling of requests for EHC needs assessments, decisions whether to issue plans and the preparation and issue of plans
- annual reviews of plans
- the processes relating to mediation
- the processes where there is a change of local authority or health commissioning body for a plan
- the process for a local authority reviewing for the first time the making and use of direct payments from a Personal Budget that is part of an EHC plan
- the actions that the local authority and health commissioning body must take when the First-tier Tribunal makes non-binding recommendations in respect of certain types of health and social care matters within an EHC plan (as part of the National Trial, which continues)
If a you are involved in one of the above processes and are likely to experience delay due to the impact of the Coronavirus, the local authority will write to inform you of this.
More detailed advice and guidance can be found online here.
How long will these changes last?
The changes relating to provision will be reviewed on 31st May 2020.
The changes relating to timescales will be reviewed on 25th September 2020.