To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will bring forward proposals to end the provisions in section 38 and Schedule 17 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 as covid-19 restrictions are lifted to make it the duty of schools to secure SEND provision for disabled children and young people.
30 March 2021
The legal duties on schools, local authorities, and health bodies to provide support to children and young people with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans are fully in force. As part of the early response to the COVID-19 outbreak, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, did issue notices under the Coronavirus Act 2020 for the months of May to July 2020 that temporarily modified the law over the provision set out in EHC plans. However, when the July notice expired last year, the full duty to secure or arrange provision under section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 was reinstated.
The safeguards built into the Coronavirus Act 2020 include that such notices can only be made where this is an ‘appropriate and proportionate action in all the circumstances relating to the incidence or transmission of Coronavirus’. Therefore, this is not a power that can be used without compelling reason. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, continues to keep the need to issue further such notices under review, but he has made it clear that he will not do so unless the evidence changes.
As part of the one year review of the Coronavirus Act 2020, and in line with the announcement of the roadmap, the government has conducted a thorough review of the non-devolved provisions to check that they are necessary and proportionate. We have considered whether there is a robust justification for keeping each power. Where we have concluded that powers are no longer necessary to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are providing for these to expire or be suspended. We do not, however, consider it appropriate at this stage to remove the power to issue notices relating to the law on EHC plans. Use of the power was and remains an important contingency to use swiftly in the event of local authorities, health bodies and education settings again needing flexibility to prioritise their resources in response to the changing demands of the outbreak.