Local Authority duties FAQs

These FAQs are based on questions that parents frequently ask via IPSEA's helplines. If you find them helpful perhaps you could make a small donation to IPSEA via this link? There is a lot more information about Local Authority Duties here.

1. How must the Local Authority (LA) involve me?

The views, wishes and feelings of children, young people and their parents, and their participation, must be central to every decision the LA makes in regard to assessing a child or young person’s SEN and how to support them. If they do not involve you, any subsequent decision is illegal and can be challenged. The LA can be made to do the assessment again. It is not good enough to offer a “token” involvement.

2. What is a “Local Offer”?

Every LA must develop a “Local Offer”. This is a document which sets out in one place what services and provision they expect to be available both inside and outside their area for children and young people with SEN and/or a disability. It should be a good resource for parents and young people as to what they can expect to be able to receive. Just because something is included in the Local Offer, it does not mean that it will be available. If it is available, you have no legal right to make sure it is provided, except through an EHC plan.

The Local Offer should make clear what special educational provision it expects the schools and colleges in its area to make from their existing budgets. This is not the same as what a school or college actually provides. This information will be useful if a LA argues that support for a child or young person should be coming from existing resources and therefore they do not need to carry out an EHC needs assessment.

3. How do I get a personal budget or direct payment?

Your LA is obliged to consider identifying a personal budget for educational provision for your child or young person only if you request it when they issue a draft EHC plan following an EHC needs assessment or when they are reviewing an EHC plan. The personal budget is the notional amount of money that would be needed to cover the cost of making the special educational provision specified in the EHC plan. You cannot have a personal budget unless you have an EHC plan.

You can at the same time ask the LA to identify elements of the personal budget which you could then receive as a direct payment. This is an actual amount of money that you would receive so that you could commission the provision in the EHC plan yourself.

A head teacher or principal has a veto if they do not agree to a direct payment being made for special educational provision which would need to be delivered in their school or college.

You cannot not appeal a decision made by a LA not to identify a personal budget or direct payment but you can ask them to review it. 

4. Who actually has a duty to deliver what is in an EHC plan?

It is the LA’s duty to ensure they identify all children and young people who have or may have SEN and/or disabilities for whom they are responsible because they live in their geographical area. Only the LA can carry out an EHC needs assessment to identify needs and provision to meet those needs. If they then issue an EHC plan it is the LA alone that has the legal duty to ensure that the educational provision is then made. This duty can never be delegated to a school or college whatever funding arrangements are in place. If a school or college’s actual resources – finances or teaching expertise – cannot make the provision outlined in the plan, the LA must provide it.

Where there is health provision in an EHC plan, the local health commissioning body – usually the Clinical Commissioning Group – has the duty to provide.

It is also the Local Authority’s duty to provide the social care provision in an EHC plan if it results from an assessment under social care legislation.

5. Is it true that Local Authorities have no responsibility towards children who are unable to attend school because of medical needs?

No! This is a common myth. Click here to find out what the law actually says

6. What support must be provided according to the Children and Families Act 2014?

The local authority (LA) has a duty to consider how a child or young person can be supported to achieve the “best possible educational and other outcomes”. This reflects a new and higher level of outcome required by the new law than under the old system.

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Information Service

The Information Service is for general legal enquiries and will signpost you to factsheets and resources on our website.  The Information Service cannot provide specific advice about individuals and their circumstances.

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IPSEA is now able to offer free and independent legally based SEN advice at Face to Face sessions organised in conjunction with the Pen Green Centre for children and families (pengreen.org).

For information on how to book a session please click here.