June 16, 2015
Any parent or guardian of a child or young person with special educational needs will know that accessing help and provision can be a bureaucratic nightmare. This may be even truer now that the system has changed. From the mid-nineties until 2014, children and young people could apply to be assessed in order to obtain a Statement of Special Educational Needs. There may have been problems with the system & indeed, this is what prompted the 2012 Green Paper, and the subsequent changes to the SEND regulations & but at least parents, teachers, professionals, and lawyers were all familiar with it.
Unfortunately, as with any legislation changes, it can take time for everyone to catch up to how the new system works. This is why it is important that parents know that they can access legal advice regarding their child’s educational provision. The specialist team at Tayntons Solicitors can help you at every stage of the process: from requesting an initial assessment or switching from a statement to an EHC plan; to helping you understand when you have the right to appeal against aspects of your child’s care (or lack thereof).
Requesting an initial assessment
When it comes to identifying that a child or young person may have SEN, there are several routes to diagnosis and/or identification. It may be that the child has a visible or established disability that has seen them easily identified as requiring additional support in school. However, it may also be that the child has a learning difficulty, or a disability that is not identified until later on. These sorts of ‘hidden’ disabilities may include dyslexia and dyspraxia, autistic spectrum disorders, or even mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder.
The SEND Code of Practice states that ‘local services [meaning schools, colleges, health authorities, or early years providers] should identify needs and offer effective support as soon as possible for children or young people who need it.’ The problem with this, of course, is that you may disagree with the local authority as to whether your child needs the support.
Once a statutory assessment has been requested there is a legal test as to whether it is necessary.
Again, there can be something of a circular problem with this. If, for example, a child is in receipt of extra support at school already, the local authority may deem that an assessment is not necessary. However, the school may be in a position where it cannot continue with the extra support unless an assessment is carried out.