When a local authority (“LA”) agree to conduct an education, health and care (“EHC”) needs assessment, they are agreeing to seek advice and information from a specified list of professionals including anyone the parent or young person ‘reasonably requests’ (this is set out in Regulation 6(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 – see the section on what happens in an EHC needs assessment for more information).

If you have made a request for the LA to seek advice and information from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (“CAMHS”) or anyone else, then the LA is under a legal duty to approach the professional for advice so long as the request is reasonable. When a health service is approached for advice and information it must provide it within 6 weeks of being contacted by the LA. The information and advice must be in relation to the child’s needs, outcomes and provision. 

The EHC needs assessment process is the legal procedure for identifying all the SEN and special educational provision required. If needs are not fully identified at this stage and the assessment results in the LA issuing an EHC plan, the EHC plan is unlikely to be sufficiently drafted due to the inadequate assessment process.

If a child has mental health needs, it would be very difficult for the LA to argue the request to seek advice from CAMHS is unreasonable just because there happens to be a waiting list as this is irrelevant to the request. You should write a formal letter to the LA using IPSEA’s template letter.

If the LA continue to say no to seeking advice from CAMHS or another professional you have asked them to obtain advice from you should consider making a formal complaint to the LA using their complaints process. You can find out more about making a complaint against an LA here

IPSEA’s case work suggests it is common practice for some of the professionals specified on the Regulation 6 list to respond to a request for advice with a “not known to this service” letter, or, a statement to say there is a long waiting list so they are unable to provide the advice. Such a response is likely to be unlawful and does not meet the legal requirement of the LA to seek and obtain the advice in relation to needs, outcomes and provision. The template letter referred to above can also be used to complain if you receive an inadequate response.