The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 were laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State for Education on 30 April.
The Amendment relates to timescales detailed in the following:
- The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 and The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Detained Persons) Regulations 2015.
- The Special Educational Needs (Personal Budgets) Regulations 2014
- The Special Educational Needs and Disability (First-tier Tribunal Recommendations Power) Regulations 2017
The above legislation details:
- the timelines required to be followed by local authorities in carrying out EHC needs assessments
- the timelines on when decisions as to whether EHC plans are to be issued by local authorities
- when direct payment reviews under personal budgets are to be carried out by local authorities
- the requirement for local authorities to carry out certain actions following non-binding recommendations made by First Tier Tribunal in respect of health and social care within a certain period of time
All of the above timelines detailed in the Regulations have now been relaxed with local authorities, health commissioning bodies and social care no longer required to comply with timelines if it is impractical to do so, because of a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus. Instead, the above actions can be carried out ‘as soon as is reasonably practicable’.
This amendment has been bought in to allow local authorities and health bodies more flexibility in how they are responding to the current outbreak of coronavirus. For instance, health professional’s services may be more urgently required in other areas in response to the virus than in delivering the therapy in an EHC Plan within a certain timescale.
It is stressed that the duties on local authorities, health and social care bodies are not discharged entirely and “they must complete the processes required of them to a modified timescale”. The processes detailed in the regulations still need to be carried out, but, the timescales may be adjusted.
The amendments to timings comes into force on 1 May 2020 and will run until 25 September 2020.
Following this, the usual timing requirements will resume.
The above change to timescales may result in a large number of assessments and decisions being delayed and come 25 September when normal timings can be resumed, how will this be applied? Will it take into account the time that has already passed between May and September? And what impact will this have on children and young people with EHC plans in the next academic year?