This Note addresses the changes to the duties of local authorities towards children and families arising from the Coronovirus Bill which is the subject of consideration by Parliament this week. The Bill may be the subject of amendment, but the position as drafted is discussed below.
The Government has proposed legislation proposing changes to adult social care duties under the Care Act 2014 (see https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0122/20122.pdf).
In relation to children with Education and Health Care Plans under the Children and Families Act 2014, the Bill proposes to amend the duty to make provision as specified in the Plan under s.42 of that Act so that it is “…treated as discharged if the person has used reasonable endeavours to discharge the duty”: the duty to provide support as specified in the plan is downgraded to a “reasonable endeavours” duty.
The Government has announced that school closures will not apply to children with EHCPs. However the position of children attending specialist provision is unclear, as such schools may provide education to children with particular health vulnerabilities.
The Bill disapplies the duty under section 17ZH(2) to (4) or (6) of the Children Act 1989 (section 17 services: transition for children to adult care and support).
No amendment is proposed to the duty to other duties under the Children Act 1989 including duties under s.17 to children who are “in need” as defined by s.17(10).
The Bill may yet be the subject of amendment.
Local authority children’s services will need carefully to consider presenting cases to determine their duty to assess whether children are “in need” for s.17 CA 1989 purposes on account of matters arising from the Coronavirus, including school closures, lack of provision as specified in an EHCP, financial pressures upon parents and inability of parents and carers to meet needs on account of illness.
It remains the position that the statutory guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children” (2018) applies to child in need assessments and care planning arising from such assessments.