Local Authorities Must Meet EHCP Deadline

31st March 2020

Local Authorities must meet placement deadline for children and young people with an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) moving to Post 16/19 education despite Coronavirus pandemic.

Education Lawyers acting on behalf of children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) have urged parents and carers to contact their Local Authority as a matter of urgency if they have not yet received their updated EHCP naming the placement or type of school they should attend from September 2020.

The call to action comes amidst concern that many families wrongly believe that the 31st March deadline no longer applies due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

While the UK Government has recently introduced the Coronavirus Act which includes legislation that gives a power if notice is given by the Secretary of State for Education to dilute the duty to provide provision for what is set out in the EHCP, for example 1 to 1 support or Speech and Language therapy, but Local Authorities would still have a ‘duty to use their best endeavours’.

The Secretary of State for Education has not given any notice for legislation related to the Coronavirus Act to be in force in relation to Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND), therefore Local Authorities must still comply with phase transfer deadlines for final EHCPs.

Education Law Solicitor Samantha Hale from law firm Simpson Millar said, “We’re being inundated with calls and social posts from the parents and carers of children and young people with EHCPs in place who wrongly believe that the deadline is null and void given the current Coronavirus situation, but that’s simply not the case.

“The legal deadline for Local Authorities to notify the families of children and young people who have an EHCP and are due to transfer to Post 16/19 education in September was 31st March 2020.

“This notification confirms the placement or the type of school the child or young person is due to attend, and five month lead time allows enough time for transition work to be completed to suit the needs of the child or young person.

“It also makes sure that there’s enough time to appeal the placement and contents of the EHCP and for that appeal to be heard in the First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) - more commonly known as the SEND Tribunal - before September 2020.

“Those families who are yet to receive their updated EHCP are understandably very concerned that their child’s needs won’t be met.”

Families are being encouraged to take urgent action in order to alert the Local Authority to the missed deadline, and in order to speed up the process and avoid further delays.

Samantha Hale continued, “During these unprecedented times we can understand the constraints that many Local Authorities are working within, and that there is a risk of some unavoidable delays”.

“However, the deadline is still in place which indicates the importance that is placed on having sufficient time for the transition work to be done, and for an appeal to be processed if needed.”

“We are now supporting a number of families who have contacted their Local Authorities to raise their concerns, and to ensure that the matter is dealt with as a priority.”

“If parents want to challenge Local Authorities who have not met deadlines they will need to take a Judical Review route, however due to the strange times we are operating in, we encourage Local Authorities to open dialogue with parents and outline clear timeframes of when they should receive final EHCPs and ensure transition EHCPs are issued as a priority, to ensure sufficient time for transition and any necessary appeals to be completed.”

For more information see Post 16/19 Phase Transfer Deadline Explained.

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