Local transition plans – another SEN duty being ignored?

by stevebroach

In the discussion about my post on the Local Offer earlier, there was a very helpful point made by @iannoon on Twitter suggesting that many Local Authorities may not also have their ‘local transition plan’ in place yet. So what is this plan, why does it matter and what precisely do Local Authorities have a duty to do here?

The need for a local transition plan arises from the fact that Parliament has left some of the detail on how and when to implement the new SEN system in England down to individual Local Authorities. Given the strong emphasis of the Children and Families Act 2014 on transparency and partnership with families, it is obviously necessary for each Local Authority to set out these arrangements in a local plan.

I haven’t been able to find anything about local transition plans in any of the regulations or orders – please let me know if I’ve missed something. So the requirement to have one and their contents comes from the statutory guidance, with the catchy title ‘Transition to the new 0 to 25 special educational needs and disability system’. I’d suggest this is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how the process of change to the new SEN system in England is supposed to work. This is statutory guidance – and so as it says ‘This means that recipients must have regard to it when carrying out duties relating to children and young people with special educational needs and (SEN) in England. The word ‘should’ reflects the Government’s expectations of how local authorities and other organisations will go about transferring all children and young people with SEN to the new system. Local authorities will be expected to explain any departure from these expectations.’

The guidance deals with local transition plans at paras 5.5-5.8. The guidance sets out what should be included in the plans and when they should be published. Taking ‘when’ first, the guidance says at 5.7 that the plans should be published in ‘September 2014’. So unlike the Local Offer, it does not seem that the local transition plan has to be in place by 1 September, so long as it is published during September. However the guidance also states that the plan should be published ‘alongside’ the Local Offer – so it should be published on the same website and if possible published at the same time.

In terms of ‘what’, para 5.6 of the guidance sets out in detail what each plan has to cover, including:

  • the order in which children and young people with statements will be transferred to the new system (within the national parameters, see paras 5.9-5.26 of the guidance)
  • how and when parents of children with SEN and young people with SEN, and their educational institution, will be made aware of the arrangements for a child or young person’s transfer
  • details of the ‘transfer review’ (EHC Needs Assessment) process
  • the arrangements for the transfer of young people who receive support as a result of a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA)
  • sources of impartial SEN information and advice
  • who parents and young people can contact if they have queries about transition to the new system 

This list shows just how important the local transition plan is – because without it, families cannot know whether the complex arrangements for transition to the new system in their local area are fair, reasonable and comply with what the legislation requires.

Final important point – at para 5.5, the guidance correctly emphasises that Local Authorities should consult with children, young people and parents in preparing their local transition plan. This is because preparing the plan is a ‘function’ under the Children and Families Act 2014 and so section 19 of that Act applies to its preparation. Section 19 requires Local Authorities in carrying out relevant functions to have regard (amongst other things) to ‘the views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parent, or the young person’ and ‘the importance of the child and his or her parent, or the young person, participating as fully as possible’. In order to do this, it is clear that Local Authorities will need to engage in proper consultation before finalising their local transition plans – by the end of this month.

Comments on how the transition plan is shaping up in your local area welcome below.