What the local authority must do

Local authorities (“LAs”) have legal duties to identify and assess the special educational needs (“SEN”) of children and young people for whom they are responsible. LAs become responsible for a child or young person in their area when they become aware that the child or young person has or may have SEN.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, the LA must always think about how the child or young person can be supported to facilitate their development and to help them achieve the “best possible educational and other outcomes”.

If your child is educated in an early years setting, a school or a post-16 institution, then that setting has duties to support your child – in particular, through SEN Support. See our page on how your nursery, school or college should help for further information.

If a child or young person needs, or may need, more support than their school or other setting can give them, then the LA must carry out an Education, Health and Care needs assessment. This assessment may lead to an Education, Health and Care plan (“EHC plan”) being produced for them. An EHC plan will set out the additional support the child or young person needs and the school or other institution they will go to.

Once special educational provision has been specified in an EHC plan, the LA has a legal duty to provide it. This cannot be overruled by the LA’s SEN funding policy or other internal funding arrangements.

The Local Offer

The LA must publish a Local Offer containing information about all the services and support it expects to be available for children and young people with SEN and/or disabilities for whom they are responsible. This must include not only what services are available in the geographical area but also all services outside the LA’s area which their children and young people are accessing. This will include independent schools or colleges, therapy services and care placements.

The Local Offer should not be just a directory of services or series of links. It must say clearly what the LA expects to be available in terms of:

  • what schools, colleges and other settings will provide from the funding they receive for SEN
  • what schools, colleges and other settings in its area will provide from the funding they receive to support those with a disability
  • educational, health and care provision
  • training provision
  • transport arrangements between home and school, college or early years settings
  • support for preparing for adulthood and independent living

The Local Offer is not legally binding. There is no guarantee that a service mentioned in the Local Offer will be available. However, the Local Offer can be useful for working out whether the LA has resources which can support a child or young person, or if it will be necessary to look to neighbouring local authorities or the private sector for support.

An LA must consult children, parents and young people in developing the Local Offer and in periodically reviewing it. They must make sure there is a way for public comments to be made and published about the Local Offer and they must then take them into account.

Making a complaint

If your LA is not complying with its legal duties, there are a number of ways in which you can challenge this. See the section on making a complaint for more information.


If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question on this page, see our FAQs on how local authorities should help.