THE 31st MARCH 2018 - WHAT DO PARENTS NEED TO KNOW?
The 31st March 2018 represents the final date by which all Local Authorities in England need to have transferred all Statements of Special Educational Needs into Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC Plans). This deadline is as a result of a change in the Law, which came into effect under the Children and Families Act 2014 and the new Special Education Needs and Disability Code of Practice from the 1st September 2014. This legislation requires Local Authorities to fully transfer all existing Statements of Special Educational Needs into EHC Plans before the 1st April 2018.
There are a number of points that parents of children who currently have Statements of SEN should be aware of in the run-up to this deadline:
- Local Authorities must carry out an EHC Needs Assessment as part of the transition from a Statement to an EHC Plan. This not an optional requirement but is statutory. The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that the child or young person’s current special educational needs are understood and therefore suitable special educational provisions to meet those needs can be identified. In order to complete an EHC Needs Assessment the Local Authority must seek advice and information from the following:
- a) The child/young person and parents.
- b) Educational advice from the child or young person’s current school or college.
- c) Medical advice.
- d) Psychological advice.
- e) Advice in relation to social care and any other advice the Local Authority deems appropriate.
- f) Advice from anyone the parents reasonably request the Local Authority should consult with, such as private therapists.
- Once this assessment has been completed the Local Authority must confirm if they will (a) issue an EHC Plan or (b) not issue an EHC Plan. These are the only two options available to Local Authorities and within 10 weeks from the start of the assessment, parents should be informed of the decision, which is either (a) not to issue an EHC Plan or (b) issue a draft EHC Plan. If the latter, then the Local Authority has a further four weeks to finalise the EHC Plan.
- If the Local Authority decides not to issue an EHC Plan, then parents will have two months from the date of this decision in which to appeal. It is important to note that until the expiry of this two-month timeframe or the outcome of an appeal decision if parents opt to appeal against the decision, the Local Authority must continue to deliver the provisions set out in the Statement of SEN.
- If a draft EHC Plan is issued then parents must be provided with two weeks in which to comment on the contents of the draft EHC Plan and to state a preference for school placement. The Local Authority should then consider the comments and school preference and then issue a Final EHC Plan.
- The maximum statutory time frame that the transfer process must take is 18 weeks. If Local Authorities exceed this time frame then they could be acting unlawfully and parents could seek legal advice.
- Working backwards from the deadline of the 31st March 2018 for all Statements to have been transferred to EHC Plans, thereby including EHC Needs Assessment as part of this transfer, Local Authorities should have begun this transfer process by the 10th November 2017 at the latest in order to adhere to this deadline. If parents are concerned that their child has a Statement of SEN and they have not received confirmation from the Local Authority that this will be transferred to an EHC Plan then this will need to be addressed with the Local Authority as soon as possible. Local Authorities have a statutory duty to transfer all existing Statements of SEN into EHC Plans by the 31st March 2018 and it is important that parents are aware of this date.
If you have concerns that your Local Authority has not yet begun the process of transferring your child’s Statement of SEN into an EHC Plan then the Education Department at Watkins Solicitors will be able to advise you on the steps involved in securing an EHC Plan that accurately describes your child or young person’s special educational needs, provides special educational provision that suitably meets these needs and names a placement in Section I that is appropriate for these needs, all the while having received the EHC Plan by the 1st April 2018.
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