Our LA has agreed to assess for EHCP but since COVID-19, have told us that the Educational Psychologist Service has reviewed our evidence and feel that there is enough evidence for them to support the EHCP without their input and are happy to write to LA to say so. The LA is asking if we would like to proceed without EP Assessment. Please can you tell me if the LA have a legal obligation to provide us with an EP assessment?
The deadlines which previously applied to LAs when considering EHC needs assessment requests have been temporarily relaxed as a result of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (the ‘Amendment Regulations’), which amend the timescales in the SEN and Disability Regulations 2014.. Where it is not reasonably practicable or it is impractical for an LA or other body to meet certain deadlines “for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19)”, they must instead complete that step as soon as it is practicable for them to do so.
However, as the guidance on EHC needs assessments and plans during the COVID-19 crisis makes clear, the modification is to the timing of the EHC needs assessment process, not the process itself. When an LA carries out an EHC needs assessment they must obtain all of the information set out in Regulation 6(1) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (the “SEN Regs”).This includes “psychological advice and information from an educational psychologist” (regulation 6(1)(d). The advice provided must be clear, accessible and specific (see paragraph 9.51 of the SEN and Disability Code of Practice). In particular, it should address the child or young person’s needs, the special educational provision required to meet those needs, and the outcomes which this provision will aim to achieve.
It may be that the Educational Psychologist Service is able to provide this information without meeting your child, having reviewed your evidence, in which case you may decide to accept the LA’s suggestion. You should consider, however, that when the EHC needs assessment has been completed, the LA will decide whether it is necessary for provision to be made in accordance with an EHC plan in the light of the information obtained. There is a risk that if insufficient information is obtained as part of the EHC needs assessment the LA will be more likely to conclude that an EHC plan is not required.