What happens to assessments during the summer holidays?
My son was refused an EHC needs assessment. I submitted an appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal and the LA reversed their decision immediately. It's the summer holidays during the whole 6 week period when evidence should be gathered by the LA. They are not proposing to conduct any assessments only request opinions from an EP and paediatrician who has never met my son. The school have 2 days to respond after returning from summer break. Can I keep my appeal open and make "a request for change" that the tribunal order the LA to carry out the relevant assessments. Or would I have to appeal again at a later date that the assessment was not properly conducted?
There is provision in Reg 10(4)(a) of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (“the SEND Regs”) which allows an LA to delay completing an EHC needs assessment where they have requested information from a school just before, or during, the summer holidays. So, the LA is permitted to delay if this is required to obtain information from the school.
In an EHC needs assessment, the requirement on the LA is to obtain advice and information from all those people listed in Regulation 6 of the SEND Regs. This includes ‘advice and information’ from school (Reg 6(b)), an educational psychologist (Reg 6(d)) and medical advice and information from a health care professional (Reg 6(c)).
Most people would assume that some form of assessment would be necessary to correctly identify a child’s needs and provision but the Regulations don’t state that an assessment must take place. Whilst it’s not acceptable for one professional to write a report and for it to be signed off by another, it will be down to the professional concerned to determine what exactly is required. All professionals will have their own professional standards/codes of conduct and regulatory bodies that they must abide by.
The status of your appeal will depend on the action taken by you and/or the LA after the LA agreed to conduct the EHC needs assessment.
From the question, it sounds as though the LA agreed to conduct the EHC needs assessment before it submitted its response to your appeal. In these circumstances, the LA must, within 2 weeks of notifying the SEND Tribunal that it did not oppose the appeal, notify you that ‘it must make the EHC needs assessment’. This is in Reg 45(3). This means that your appeal about the refusal to conduct an EHC needs assessment has been concluded.
If any of the advice you receive does not address needs, provision and outcomes, you can use the IPSEA model letter to complain. The LA should go back to the professional concerned and ask them for advice which complies with SEN Reg 6(1).
If the LA ultimately issues an EHC plan which is inadequate because it is based on incomplete information, then you would need to bring a new appeal about the contents of that EHC plan.