The Local Government Association has called on the Department for Education to urgently set out its definition of “reasonable endeavours” in a way that takes account of the pressures that councils are under in delivering support to children with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.
Schedule 17 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 modified the duty under section 42 Children and Families Act 2014 to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with EHC plan.
Schedule 17 says that “any duty imposed on a person by section 42 is to be treated as discharged if the person has used reasonable endeavours to discharge the duty”.
The LGA said councils and their partners needed greater flexibility to meet the needs of children with EHC plans.
School closures, staff sickness and coronavirus demand on resources had left many councils struggling to provide support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, it claimed.
It added that difficulty in delivering support set out in EHC plans had led to many councils finding themselves challenged by parents.
The LGA argued that a collaborative effort between councils, government and parents would ensure there was a common-sense approach to meeting the needs of special needs children during the coronavirus crisis. This might mean a child or young person’s provision might differ temporarily from what is set out in their EHC plan, it said.
Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “In these difficult times, councils and their partners are trying to do all they can to support children with special educational needs and their families.
“With stretched resources and competing demands during the coronavirus crisis, this has become increasingly challenging and has made current statutory timeframes unrealistic to meet.
“It is vital that the Government urgently sets out the flexibility it intends to give councils so they can try and ensure all those on EHC plans continue to receive the best possible support.”