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Parents Guide to Combating Local Authority Delays

View profile for Nathan Davies
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It is becoming more common for the specialist education lawyers at HCB Solicitors to hear about parents encountering significant delays by their Local Authorities across the UK. This can often be in the form of taking longer than the statutory timetable permits in relation to, for example conducting a statutory assessment, transitioning a Statement of Special Educational Needs to an Education, Health and Care Plan in England or not issuing an amended Statement of SEN (Wales) or EHCP (England) by the required date which is 15th February in the year of secondary transition as per section 19 of the Education (Special Educational Needs) (England) (Consolidation) Regulations 2001 and the Education (Special Educational Needs) (Wales) Regulations 2002.

Local Education Authorities are often struggling to cope with the volume of SEN cases they manage however that does not absolve them from complying with their Education Act 1996 and Children and Families Act 2014 duties. Sections 12 and 17 of the Education (Special Educational Needs) (England) (Consolidation) Regulations 2001 and the Education (Special Educational Needs) (Wales) Regulations 2002 both helpfully set out key timeframes that all Local Authorities must adhere to as part of the assessment process; although in practice these can be overlooked, leading to delays.

There are a number of ways to prompt the Local Authority into urgent action, especially if they are in breach of their statutory responsibilities. These include:

1.Engaging the Formal Complaints Process
This can often be more time-consuming in itself as many Local Authorities often have lengthy complaints procedures with a number of stages being required prior to resolution. It is common for these types of procedures to take several months in which to conclude, therefore not necessarily of assistance in the circumstances when urgent action is needed.

There are a number of benefits to mediation for certain circumstances that arise when a parent has a dispute with their Local Education Authority however it can often create further delay arranging meetings and then ensuring that the required action is taken thereafter. Mediation also does not compel the Authority to do anything; it acts as a discussion about the current position as opposed to being a formal legal process with a guaranteed result at its conclusion.

3.A Letter from a Specialist Education Law Solicitor
This is often the most effective way in which to deal with Local Authorities who cause delay or do not adhere to their responsibilities under the relevant legislation. An effective tool at the disposal of the specialist education law solicitors at HCB is to threaten the Local Authority with Judicial Review proceedings if they have breached their legal responsibilities. This can be a powerful way of forcing Local Authorities to take the required action or face High Court proceedings.

The specialist team within the Education Law Department at HCB Solicitors are on hand to assist if you are having any problems like those outlined above – please feel free to call the department on 02920 291 704