With the summer holidays now fast approaching legal minds are already looking forward to the autumn, specifically 1 September 2014, when Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 comes into force. Anyone whose child is the beneficiary of a Statement of Special Educational Need (“Statement”), or Learning Disability Assessment (“LDAs”), is aware of the change in law however, what is actually changing and how will the transition take place?
The Main Changes
Joint commissioning: The biggest change is the joint commission of health, education and social care provision. Whereas a Statement is based entirely upon a child’s educational needs, the new regime changes Statements to Education, Health and Care Plans (“EHC Plans”) with all three branches of the Local Authority working jointly together to identify a child’s needs and the provision required to meet those needs. In theory, this should harmonise the process and make the provision within the EHC Plans more specific to the child.
Age range 0-25: EHC Plans span a childhood and beyond. From when the child is first assessed the EHC Plan will last until the child is 25 years of age. This should result in provision being provided throughout primary and secondary education onto further education.
Duty to publish local offer: Local Authorities must now publish openly what provision can be offered to a child. This will make the process more transparent.
Abolition of School Action/ School Action Plus: Both are to be abolished and replaced by ‘Additional SEN Provision.’ How this will pan out in reality within schools is yet to be seen.
Mediation: Mediation must be considered before an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) (“The Tribunal”) can be made. To ensure it has been done, parties must now obtain a certificate from the Local Authority mediation provider to confirm that they have at least consulted with the mediation provider prior to contemplation proceeding with an appeal. This is a positive development with (hopefully) the number of cases reaching the Tribunal being reduced.
There are two keys dates to remember as far as the transition process is concerned:
1. September 2016 – All LDAs to be transitioned to EHC Plans
2. April 2018 – All Statements to be transitioned to EHC Plans
These are the key dates by which ALL LDAs and Statements must have been transitioned over to the new regime. Regardless of the pressure being placed upon the Local Authority, it still has a duty to provide for your child in the same way as if the change was not taking place.
The changes will be vast and the effect of the changes are not completely known as yet however, one thing remains certain throughout; if your child has a Statement or a LDA, then they will be transitioned to the new regime over the coming years.
At Match Solicitors, we pride ourselves on our quality of service and depth of knowledge in matters surrounding the law of Special Educational Needs and Disability. If you have any questions in relation to the new changes and how this might affect your child, please get in touch. We would be happy to help.