Temporary changes to education, health and care legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Some aspects of the law on education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans are changing temporarily to give local authorities, health commissioning bodies, education settings and other bodies who contribute to these processes more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by coronavirus (COVID-19).
These changes are being brought about by:
- A notice from the Secretary of State for Education issued under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (duty to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with EHC plan). The duty on local authorities or health commissioning bodies to secure or arrange the provision is temporarily modified to a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so.
- The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (the ‘Amendment Regulations’). This instrument temporarily amends 4 sets of Regulations that specify timescales that apply to local authorities, health commissioning bodies and others: principally for various processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans. Where it is not reasonably practicable or is impractical to meet that time limit for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the specific time limit (such as to issue a plan to someone eligible for one within 20 weeks of the initial request) in the regulations being amended will not apply. Instead, the local authority or other body to whom that time limit applies will have to complete the process as soon as reasonably practicable or in line with any other timing requirement in any of the regulations being amended.
Today (1ST MAY), Labour is calling on the Government to rethink changes to the law which may put some of the most vulnerable children and adults in the country at greater risk of harm.
Labour understands the strain civil servants, the government and local authorities are under but with the Children’s Commissioner intervening today to say that she ‘’would like to see all the regulations revoked, as I do not believe that there is sufficient justification to introduce them’’, we are calling on the Government to urgently make time to debate these changes in the House of Commons.
Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“This is a very significant intervention from the Children’s Commissioner. We understand the increased pressures the civil service, government and local authorities are under but, as she has said, there is no justification for scrapping protections for vulnerable children in this crisis.
“Labour has raised concerns earlier in the week about these changes and have been consulting with the children’s sector.
“We are in full agreement that these regulations are unnecessary and increase the risk of harm to vulnerable children at a time when we should be providing them with more support not less.
“The Government must urgently make time to debate these regulations in Parliament and if it will not, we will take action to force them to do so.’’
The statutory instruments to effect these changes were laid before parliament (23 April) and come into force the next day (24th April).
The Children’s Commissioner made this statement on changes to regulations affecting children’s social care.
Responding to reports that last night the Government removed the guaranteed rights of all children with a education, health and care (EHC) plan, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:
"It is utterly unacceptable that children with EHCPs and their parents had about 7 hours’ notice before their right to provisions was effectively revoked. The Government should be ashamed over how it has handled this.
"At a time when Government should be doing more, they are doing less. Some will say this is pragmatic, but I am deeply concerned that already under-supported children and families are going to fall through the cracks.
"The Government must commit to the money and training needed to maintain standards. With supply teachers desperate for work and retired teachers ready and waiting to come back to help, this should have been done weeks ago."