This case involved a dispute about the legal deadlines local authorities (“LAs”) have to meet when amending EHC plans as a result of an annual review.    

The parties agreed the law was clear that the LA’s decision to amend must be issued within four weeks of the annual review meeting. But the LA argued that it did not have to send the parents details of the changes it proposed to make to the EHC plan until later on. The children’s case was that when the LA notifies the parents that they will be amending the EHC plan, they must set out what the proposed changes are at the same time. 

The High Court had to decide how the law on this point should be interpreted. Amongst other things, the High Court judge noted that following the “front loaded” annual review process, LAs could not reasonably know whether to propose amendments to the EHC plan (rather than keep it the same or cease it) unless they had decided for themselves what the potential change (or changes) would be. 

The High Court acknowledged the LA’s arguments about having limited resources but noted that this could not influence the meaning of the regulations, which the judge concluded were clear. 

The High Court decided that, when a LA ends an annual review by proposing to amend the EHC plan, the regulation which requires the LA to “notify” the parent or young person of its decision within four weeks of the annual review meeting and the regulation which sets out the process for amending the EHC plan must be read together.  

This means that LAs must notify the parent or young person of the decision to amend the EHC plan AND what the proposed changes actually are within four weeks of the annual review meeting. The final EHC plan must be issued as soon as practicable and within a further 8 weeks maximum. Therefore, the LA must send the parent or young person the final amended EHC plan within a maximum of 12 weeks of the annual review meeting.  

The High Court’s full judgment is available here.  

You can find more information about the legal process LAs must follow when reviewing and amending an EHC plan in IPSEA’s annual review checklist. If the review or amendment process is not being followed properly, these model letters may help you.