Temporary legislative changes have been made to EHC needs assessments and plans relating to COVID-19
Some aspects of the law on Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessments and plans have changed temporarily to give local authorities, commissioning health bodies and other bodies who contribute to the EHC process more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by COVID-19.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 provides for various emergency powers for the Secretary of State for Education, including issuing a notice to modify section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (duty to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with EHC plan). This notice has been issued to be in force from 1st May until 31st May (inclusive). During this period the duty to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with an EHC plan is replaced by a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so.
From 1 May to 25 September 2020 (inclusive) the Regulations which provide most of the statutory timescales for the EHC needs assessments and plans processes will be modified. This means that timescales in relation to processes for EHC assessments and plans are amended so that where it has not been reasonable practicable to meet a time limit, due to the circumstances arising because of COVID-19, the process can instead be completed ‘as soon as is practicable thereafter’. These temporary changes to the law only affect various statutory timescales for processes, all of the other requirements of the EHC needs assessments and plan processes remain unchanged.
Despite these temporary changes, the Government advice still emphasises the ongoing importance of co-production with children and young people with SEND and their parents and the need for effective communication between local authorities and families.
Further reading and useful links:
Joint DHSC & DFE Ministerial Letter