Councils look to government for clarity regarding relaxation of statutory duties for disabled children
The Local Government Association (LGA) has highlighted that many local authorities are struggling to deliver support set out in SEND children’s Education, Health and Care Plans (ECHP) and has called for clarity regarding the relaxation of statutory provisions.
It comes following the passing of the Coronavirus Act which has allowed for temporarily easements relating to statutory provisions set out in ECHP.
According to the LGA, councils are encountering difficulties supporting SEND children and young people because of a strain on resources – a result of the combined impact of school closures, staff sickness and increased coronavirus demand.
Now, councils are calling for clarity regarding the relaxation of statutory provisions as more local authorities face challenges from parents.
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.”
Councils and their partners say they need greater flexibility to meet the needs of children with EHCPs and has appealed to the Department for Education to swiftly detail its definition of “reasonable endeavours” that take account of the pressure that councils say they are under.
“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 EHCPs continue to receive the best possible support,” added Cllr Blake.
The request for clarity of easements comes as several services for children with disabilities have been reduced or stopped as resources have been redeployed across the health and social care system.
In late April, the Chief Executives of CECOPS and Simple Stuff Works warned that NHS guidance to CCG bosses to stop lower and medium priority work relating to wheelchairs, prosthetics and other vital assistive technologies could have a highly damaging effect in the future.
The LGA says that councils are seeking a collaborative effort between themselves, government and parents to ensure there is a “common-sense approach to meeting the needs of special needs children during the coronavirus crisis. This may mean a child or young person’s provision may differ temporarily from what is set out in their EHCP.”