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EHCP timescales amended during COVID-19

The government have published the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. which came into force on the 1 May 2020.

Full details can be found here.  

This temporarily amends earlier Regulations, (including the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014) and the amendment only runs from 1 May 2020 until 25 September 2020.

Essentially, the amended Regulations downgrade all requirements in the earlier Regulations in relation to timescales for EHCPs. They concern the following timescales:

  • the handling of requests for EHC needs assessments, decisions whether to issue plans and the preparation and issue of plans
  • annual reviews of plans
  • the processes relating to mediation
  • the processes where there is a change of local authority or health commissioning body for a plan
  • the process for a local authority reviewing for the first time the making and use of direct payments from a Personal Budget that is part of an EHC plan
  • the actions that the local authority and health commissioning body must take when the First-tier Tribunal makes non-binding recommendations in respect of certain types of health and social care matters within an EHC plan

The new Regulations mean that timescales no longer need to be complied with in a certain length of time, which was previously specifically set out in various Regulations. Instead, they must be complied with ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.

In our experience, it was rare for these timescales to be complied with in the first place, so we are concerned that there is now no longer a statutory requirement to comply with them.

It is important to note, however, that the duties to comply with the timescales have not been ‘turned off’, simply relaxed. Additionally, the local authority must show that the reason they have been unable to comply with a timescale is specifically because of the Covid-19 pandemic (or more specifically “for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus”).

Practically, this means that if the timescales have already passed, the local authority cannot rely on the new amended Regulations to argue that it is now impossible to comply with them. However, if you are part way through a process and concerned that the local authority will not comply with a timescale (but the time has not yet passed), then the new Regulations can be relied upon.

If you need advice on this or any other aspect of education law, contact our specialist education team today on 01926 354704 or email:

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