This case concerned a child with autism and learning difficulties with associated problems in respect of impaired communication, social interaction and stereotypes/obsessive behaviours. The case concluded that a Statement (now an EHC plan) had to give very specific details of speech and language therapy for an autistic child, and a local authority could not bypass the procedure for amendment of the Statement.

This appeal concerned a Statement where the First-tier Tribunal had ordered a change from speech and language therapy being delivered “as deemed necessary” to set out more detailed provision, including once monthly sessions with a therapist and daily support, up until a particular date. After this date, the amended Statement allowed the local authority to change the provision thereafter by "formal discussion" with the parent:

"Any change in the level [of] support will require a formal discussion between the LEA, the NHS Trust and one or both of [C]'s parents, but the above level of support is to remain at no less than the present level until June this year'.

The parents appealed against this wording. The parent’s argument was that this would enable to the LA to change the provision without recourse to the statutory process of amendment and appeal and that the provision also lacked sufficient certainty.

The High Court agreed. The LA couldn’t be permitted to bypass the statutory process of amendment and the parent’s right of appeal: “Such a fundamental infringement of the policy of a right of appeal against the contents of a Statement expressed in [the Act] could not be justified by any need for flexibility in the provision” (Bell J).

Further, the need for specificity of provision would continue beyond “June of this year”, and the wording failed to give sufficient specificity to the provision being delivered after this date to comply with the requirement of specificity in the legislation.

This principle set out by the High Court in this case – that the provision in the Statement would not be specific if it were left open to variation by the LA without the Statement also being changed – was approved by the Court of Appeal in N v North Tyneside Borough Council [2010] EWCA Civ 135. The judges held that the Statement identified a clear provision, and s. 324(5) Education Act 1996 (now replaced by s. 37(1) Children and Families Act 2014) requires the LA to ensure that it is provided. It was not open to the LA unilaterally to vary the provision as and when it appeared to be appropriate.

No case report is available online.

This case remains relevant to children and young people with EHC plans as the LA’s obligations to specify provision in an EHC plan and ensure that provision is delivered are the same as they were with Statements.

For more information, see our section on what an EHC plan should contain and changing an EHC plan.