Complaining when a local authority does not respond to a request for assessment within the time limit: Model letter 9

What is the time limit for the local authority to respond to a request for assessment?

A local authority (“LA”) is required to notify you of its decision on your request for assessment within 6 weeks of receiving it.

When does the time limit start?

The 6 week time limit runs from the date on which the LA receives the request for assessment. When it is classed as ‘received’ will depend on the method used to send it. If it is:

  1. Delivered by hand, the 6 weeks runs from the day of delivery (or the following working day if it is delivered after 5pm or on a non-working day);
  2. Sent by signed for delivery, the 6 weeks runs from the date on which a representative of the LA signs for it (you will be able to check online when the item was delivered);
  3. Sent by first class post, the 6 weeks runs from the next working day after it was posted;
  4. Sent by e-mail, the 6 weeks runs from the day that it is sent (or the following working day if it is sent after 5pm or on a non-working day).

Are there exceptions to the time limit?

There are some circumstances in which an LA may not be required to comply with the 6 week time limit if it would be impractical for it to do so. These are where:

(a) The LA asks for advice about the request from a school, college or early years provider during a time when it is closed for a period of longer than 4 weeks (i.e. in the summer holidays), or in the week before it closes for such a period.

(b)  During the six week period, exceptional personal circumstances affect the child, the child’s parent or the young person or they are away for more than 4 weeks.

The LA will only be able to rely on one of these exceptions if it can show that making the decision on time would be impractical. The LA is still required to notify you of its decision on your request as soon as possible.

When should I complain?

You should complain as soon as the 6 week period has expired.

Who should I write to?

You should write to the most senior person at the LA, usually called the Director of Children’s Services. You can find information and contact details for this person by clicking here.

Remember to keep a copy of any letter you send. If you don’t get a reply after five working days, or if you need further advice, you can book an advice line appointment with IPSEA.