Children and Families Act one year on

It is now a year since the Children and Families Act came into force in England on 1 September 2014. Under the Act, a new system of education, health and care plans is replacing the old one of statements of special educational needs. The change is happening gradually over several years and the main group affected this last year were school leavers.

Change is never an easy thing and we have picked up the following issues, both from calls to the DSA helpline and talking to colleagues in other SEN organisations:

  • Local authorities are struggling to meet legally binding timescales for transfer reviews from statement to EHCP
  • Parents are not receiving clear information about the transfer review process and who must be involved
  • LAs are not always following legal requirements regarding professional evidence

In the light of this we welcome the recent announcement by the Department for Education regarding:

  • extension to the time limits for transfer reviews from 1 September 2015.
  • clarification as to the professional evidence required

Time limits

The overall time limit for transferring an individual statement to an EHCP has been extended from 16 weeks to 20 weeks. This is the time between the LA formally notifying the parent of the review to the final plan.

Advice and information

This is the professional evidence which is taken into account when writing the EHCP. There is a requirement under the Children and Families Act not to seek new information unnecessarily. Some parents were telling us that their LA was relying on reports that were years old without seeking updated views. The DfE has clarified when existing advice and information will be considered ‘sufficient’.

Three people must agree that existing advice is sufficient. These are:

  • the LA
  • the parent or young person
  • the professional who wrote the advice

If any of these disagrees, new advice must be sought.

In deciding whether an existing report is still valid the following should be taken into account:

  • how recently it was written
  • how far the child’s or young person’s needs have changed
  • whether it focuses enough on the outcomes sought for the child or young person

The DfE suggests that it is a good idea to start thinking about whether existing reports are sufficient before the formal start of the review process. This will then give more time to collect up to date evidence.

 Who will be affected in 2015/16?

In the coming school year, local authorities must transfer

  • all children moving from an early years setting to a school
  • all children/young people changing school at a phase transfer e.g. infant/junior, primary/secondary, primary/middle, middle/secondary
  • all children/young people moving from mainstream to special and vice versa
  • all young people in year 9
  • all young people leaving school

Your local authority may also choose to transfer additional year groups. You should check your LA’s transfer timetable which should be available on their local offer site

What you can do

  • Check whether your child is due to be transferred this school year.
  • Think about whether existing reports about your child reflect his or her current needs. What other evidence might it be useful to have?

More information

DSA factsheet on transfer reviews

Transitional guidance from the DfE – this will be updated with the new time limits