Legal clarification of Pathfinder EHC plans

The Department for Education (DfE) have today sent a letter to Pathfinder Local Authorities (LAs) clarifying the legal position of EHC Plans that they issue to parents under their pilot schemes. This has been in response to a number of queries that IPSEA have received from parents which we have raised with Pathfinders and the DfE directly.

You can view the letter here.

The DfE have confirmed that:

  • That Pathfinders must maintain existing legal protections for families
  • When offering assessment of a child's SEN to parents that they should be made aware that they can choose whether to proceed with the particular assessment processes being piloted by that LA or follow the current statutory assessment process which requires the LA to gather evidence from specified professionals including an educational psychologist at the LA's expense.
  • That any EHC plan once issued does not have a statutory basis and cannot be appealed to the SEND Tribunal
  • That if disagreements about a EHC plan cannot be resolved, that Pathfinders should offer to "convert" the Plan into a Statement and that parents should not be expected to start the whole process again. Parents would then have a right of appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
  • That EHC plans do not place a direct legal duty on LAs to secure the special educational provision they specify. The DfE does however "expect" Pathfinder LAs to treat them as if they did.

Jane McConnell, Chief Executive of IPSEA said:

This clarification is very much welcomed and IPSEA will continue to work constructively with Pathfinder LAs and the DfE to resolve any issues that parents are facing through this period of change. It is vital that a new system of assessment and the introduction of EHC plans is based on clear evidence of what works for children and young people.