What duties do local authorities have to children and young people with SEN/Disabilities?
Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 places legal duties on Local Authorities (LAs) 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/young person in their area when they become aware that the child/young person has or may have SEN. They must then ensure that those children and young people receive a level of support which will help them “achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes” – Section 19 (d).
The legal duty to carry out a EHC needs assessment and then issue an EHC plan is a direct one on an LA and can never be ultimately delegated to parents, the young person, a school or college. An LA must carry out an EHC needs assessment if a child or young person needs, or may need, more support than their school or other setting can give them.
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 internal funding arrangements including banding, matrixes, or notional SEN spending levels such as £6,000 or £10,000.
The LA must publish a Local Offer (LO) containing information of about all the services and support it expects to be available for children and young people with SEN and/or a disability for whom they are responsible. This must include details of any schools, colleges or services outside the area that the LA might use or expect to be avaiable for those children or young people.
The LO 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/early years settings
• support for preparing for adulthood and independent living
It is important to remember however, that there is no guarantee that a service mentioned in the LO will, in fact, be available for a particular child, or at all. There is no legal duty for the LA (or a school) to actually deliver the provision or services which are set out in the LO.
An LA must consult children, parents and young people in developing this LO and in periodically reviewing it. They must take make sure there is a way for public comments to be made and published about the LO and they must then take them into account.
Our Tribunal Helpline Gives next step advice on SEN appeals and disability discrimination claims to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. When you call we will also assess whether you need casework support. Please click here to book an appointment to get one of our advisers to call you back.