Guidance on temporary changes to SEND legislation

Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans: Guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

On Friday 1st May 2020 the Government announced temporary changes to Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans. 

We’ve put together this summary of the main changes and what this means for families of children with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND).  You can also find out what these changes mean for families in this  presentation from the Department of Health or read the Government’s full report.

EHC plans – Guidance on temporary legislative changes.pdf

There are two main changes to ‘SEND duties’ which have been deemed necessary to help protect the needs of children and young people with SEND and manage the demands on local authorities and health bodies to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.  

Change 1: A new exemption to the 20-week EHC timescale will be permitted due to issues relating to Coronavirus. 

This will mean some EHC assessment requests will not be completed within 20 weeks at this time. This might, for example, be due to professionals being unable to complete their assessment. Where this is the case, we will write to parents and settings to let them know. Where it has been necessary to apply an exemption, we will also try and catch up as quickly as possible so that the EHC assessment process does not drift. 

Things to note: 

  • There is no blanket policy. As far as possible we will still attempt to deliver all EHC assessments within the 20-week timescale

  • All professionals who give advice have been asked by the Department for Education to use creative ways in which to provide their information so that assessments continue to be made and EHC plans issued in a timely manner. Deciding which EHC assessments will be exempt from the 20-week timescale will be made on a case by case basis and will only be used in extreme situations 

  • This change came into effect from 1st May 2020 and will be in place until the 25th September 2020 in the first instance 

Change 2: The duty to secure or arrange special educational provision and health care provision in EHC plans is temporarily modified to a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so. 

This means that decisions regarding ‘reasonable endeavours’ must consider what needs to be delivered for a child with an EHC plan during this period. For the majority this is likely to mean that provision will be different to that which is set out in their EHC plan for some, or all of the time that the legislative notice is in. 

Things to note:

  • No blanket policy will be introduced. Reasonable endeavour must consider what is necessary for each child

  • Alternative provision arrangements that are put in place will need to consider local circumstances. This is likely to include workforce capacity and skills, temporary closures of education settings, guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus, the extent home learning programmes can be made available and the availability of suitable IT equipment in the home 

  • Examples of alternative arrangements may include:

  • alterations to the frequency and timing of delivery of provision in school

  • video class sessions for children to keep in touch with classmates and teaching staff

  • home learning reading programme, provided by your school’s SENCo and reviewed weekly

  • Educational Psychologists providing therapy interventions

  • Speech and Language Therapy/ Occupational Therapy input via video link

  • This change came into effect from 1st May 2020 and will be revised on a monthly basis by the Secretary of State. 

In order to understand the reasonable endeavour duty further, the local authority intends to hold virtual briefings with settings, schools and colleges. 

All other duties within SEND legislation remain in place. This means:

  • Annual reviews of children’s EHC plans require completion, although there is acknowledgement that reviews may be briefer and held in a different form 

  • Educational settings must continue to admit children once they are named on an EHC plan. This means a setting must put the child on roll and treat the child in the same way as all other children are being treated at the setting at this time

  • Settings must respond within 15 days of the Local Authority consulting with them regarding proposals to name them in a plan

  • The SEND appeal system remains in place. There are no new complaints processes for the temporary legislative duties and where disagreements arise, local dispute processes should be followed 

  • Duties in law over EHC needs assessments and plans have not been ‘turned off’ 

If you have any queries about these changes, please contact the SEND Parent Link Contact Line on 0121 303 8461.