CLICK TO DOWNLOAD: Letter when a local authority does not respond to a request for assessment within the time limit (template letter 9)

This template letter is for general advice purposes and will need to be tailored to your own individual circumstances. Please read all the information on this page and, if possible, we recommend you take advice on using this letter.   

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

Your local authority (LA) must notify you of its decision on your request for assessment within six weeks of receiving it. 

When does the time limit start? 

The six week time limit runs from the date your LA receivesyour 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 six weeks runs from the day of delivery (or the following working day if it is delivered after 5pm or on a non-working day) 

  1. sent by signed for delivery, the six 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) 

  1. sent by first class post, the six weeks runs from the next working day after it was posted, or 

  1. sent by e-mail, the six weeks runs from the day that it is sent (or the next 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 six week time limit if it would be impractical for it to do so. These are where: 

  1. 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 four weeks (in the summer holidays, for example), or in the week before it closes for such a period, or
  2. during the six week period, exceptional personal circumstances affect the child, the child’s parent or the young person, or they are away from the area for more than four 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.  Your LA must still notify you of its decision on your request as soon as possible. 

When should I write? 

You should write to your LA as soon as the six week period has passed. 

Who should I write to? 

You can use this letter to write to the top person at your LA, usually the Director of Children’s Services. You can find the information and contact details for this person on the Association of Directors of Children’s Services website. It may help to copy in  your LA’s monitoring officer, your ward councillor, and your LA case worker or officer as well. 

Should I make a formal complaint as well? 

Delay in deciding whether or not to carry out an EHC needs assessment and to your right to mediate and/or appeal if the LA’s decision is not to, is a very serious matter and means the LA is not complying with the law. Therefore, taking the time to complete your LA’s complaints process may not be appropriate (for example because its urgent for your child’s special educational needs to be met), in which case we recommend you use our template letter to alert the LA to the issue and take advice on starting a process calledjudicial reviewinstead of making a formal complaint.  

Another factor to consider is that if the LA is late at this stage and takes its time to deal with a complaint, there’s a risk that if it decides to assess it will rush the process to make up for lost time (rather than assess properly and make sure it has all the information it needs to make the right decision about whether to issue an EHC plan). 

If the situation is not urgent, you may prefer to complain but first check your LA’s complaints procedure for how long this would take. This can be found in your LA’s Local Offer on its website.  If necessary, after following the LA’s complaints procedure you can escalate the complaint to theLocal Government Social Care Ombudsman. If a complaint goes through all stages of the LGSCO’s process, it can take many months to resolve. So again, if the situation is urgent, we recommend you considerjudicial reviewinstead of making a formal complaint. 

If you decide to complain, your LA’s Local Offer should clearly set out how a formal complaint can be made in its complaints procedure. This can be found on your LA’s website. If complaining, you should follow the LA’s complaints procedureas well aswriting to the Director of Children’s Services. See ourmaking a complaint about a LA pagefor more information. 

Remember to keep a copy of any letter or email you send. 

If you need further advice or you use this template letter and do not get a reply after five working days, you can book an advice line appointment with IPSEA, use our call-in service or take advice and get help with judicial review from a legal aid provider or other organisation.