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To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what his Department's plans are for children who were in the process of applying for an Education, Health and Care plan at the time schools were closed due to the covid-19 outbreak.
The welfare of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) and their parents or carers is a high priority for the government, especially during this period of uncertainty. We are working closely with colleagues across government to ensure that appropriate arrangements, and support, are in place for all of the department’s sectors – from early years and childcare to schools and children’s social care, and for vulnerable groups including children with special educational needs.
If the local authority has not yet issued an education, health and care (EHC) plan for a child, then they will not automatically be identified in the group of children considered to be vulnerable. However, educational settings and local authorities have discretion to undertake a risk assessment and offer support to children who are in the process of obtaining an EHC plan, and any other children they consider vulnerable, if that is needed.
If a child already has an EHC plan the local authority remains responsible for maintaining it, including until any appeal to the tribunal has been heard and resolved. However, the Coronavirus Act 2020 allows the Secretary of State for Education, where appropriate, to temporarily lift the statutory duty on local authorities to maintain the precise provision in EHC plans, with local authorities needing instead to apply ‘reasonable endeavours’ to support these children and their families. Any changes made to a child or young person’s provision in their EHC plan would only remain in place temporarily.
We are also proposing to amend SEND regulations to provide for flexibility over matters such as the timescales in EHC needs assessments, and the review, re-assessment and amendment processes where particular cases are affected by the COVID-19 situation.
The government has published guidance on ongoing provision for and vulnerable children which can be found at the link below: