This case involved a request for an assessment under the Education Act 1996. This has now been replaced by s. 36 Children and Families Act 2014, regarding when a local authority (“LA”) needs to conduct an EHC needs assessment. However as the new law uses very similar wording to the old law, the case remains relevant. The test in s. 36(8) is that where a child or young person has or may have SEN, and it may be necessary for provision to be made in accordance with an EHC plan, then the LA must carry out an EHC needs assessment.

In this particular case, the LA refused to assess and the parents appealed. The LA delegated a large amount of funding to schools for pupils with SEN. The First-tier Tribunal accepted that there was no need for an assessment at the relevant time. The child’s SEN were already well understood, and there was no additional information about the child’s SEN which would be gained by carrying out an assessment. Significantly (and unusually), the particular arrangements by the LA meant that the child would not need a Statement to access the support he required, as the support provision (including funding for it) had been guaranteed by the LA for the forthcoming academic year. The parent appealed to the Upper Tribunal.

The Upper Tribunal agreed that in this case an assessment was not required. However, it accepted that it might be ‘necessary’ for there to be an assessment in order to “open the door to the issue of a statement and with it the enforceability of rights”. This could be relevant in a case where a school theoretically could do more to support a child, but was unable or unwilling to do so. It would therefore be necessary to obtain an EHC plan in order to access that support.

The full case report for MC v Somerset County Council (SEN) [2015] UKUT 0461 (AAC) can be viewed online.

For more information see our sections on what your school should do to help and EHC needs assessments.