The Government has announced temporary changes to the law on educational, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus.
The Department for Education and the Secretary of State have invoked the easements to the provisions of the Children and Families Act 2014 contained in the Coronavirus Act 2020.
This means that some aspects of the law for children and young people with SEND are modified for a period of time to give local authorities and health commissioners more flexibility during the COVID-19 crisis.
There is detailed guidance on the changes here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/changes-to-the-law-on-education-health-and-care-needs-assessments-and-plans-due-to-coronavirus/education-health-and-care-needs-assessments-and-plans-guidance-on-temporary-legislative-changes-relating-to-coronavirus-covid-19
As the changes are temporary, the SEND Code of Practice 0-25 is not being updated https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-of-practice-0-to-25 but if you are referring to the Code of Practice please bear in mind this new guidance.
If you’re looking for something a little easier to digest, this video from Special Needs Jungle by SEN lawyer Hayley Mason explains what it all means.
In brief, these are the changes, but please refer to the guidance for full details:
Time-limited duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange provision in an EHC Plan
It is important for families to understand that, with regard to the provision set out in a child or young person’s EHC Plan, the Local Authority and health are still responsible and must now use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure the provision set out; co-production with families must continue with the child or young person at the centre of the process, any changes to provision must be explained to families, and options discussed with families. And clear records must be kept of the decision and why it was made, with a clear requirement to reinstate the provision as soon as possible. This legal change will be in force from 1st to 31st May 2020 and may be extended.
Timescales for EHC needs assessments and plans
Where timescales for various EHC processes are affected by reasons relating to the coronavirus, the usual timescales will be replaced by requirements on the Local Authority and health professionals to act as soon as is ‘reasonably practicable’. If changes to timescales are required, the Local Authority must inform families as soon as they know this is necessary. These changes will be in force from 1st May to 25th September 2020 and will be kept under review.
Annual Review requirements remain in place but may need to take a different form.
The Department for Health and Social Care and the Department for Education have issued a joint statement which you can find here.