Question to the Department for Education:
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the provision in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice for local authorities to use their own criteria to decide when it is necessary to carry out an Education, Health and Care needs assessment.
The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice states that local authorities may develop criteria as guidelines to help them decide when it is necessary to carry out an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. However, as set out in the Code, local authorities must also be prepared to depart from those criteria where there is a compelling reason to do so in any particular case and demonstrate their willingness to do so where individual circumstances warrant such a departure. Local authorities must not apply a ‘blanket’ policy to particular groups of children or certain types of need, as this would prevent the consideration of a child’s or young person’s needs individually and on their merits as is required under the Children and Families Act 2014.
The Code of Practice also requires that the health care provision specified in section G of the EHC plan must be agreed by the relevant Clinical Commissioning Group (or, where relevant, NHS England) and any health care provision should be agreed in time to be included in the draft EHC plan sent to the child’s parent or to the young person for whom the plan has been created. As part of the joint commissioning arrangements, partners must have clear disagreement resolution procedures where there is disagreement on the services to be included in an EHC plan.
Ultimately, it is for local authorities to ensure that EHC plans are produced in a timely manner and that they include all relevant information to ensure the needs of the child or young person who is subject to the plan are clearly defined, that appropriate support is identified, and that appropriate outcomes are included.
However, we recognise that there are concerns with the SEND system. We announced the SEND Review in September 2019 to ensure the system is working best for all families, and that support in different areas is consistent, available and joined up across health, care and education services.