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Special Educational Needs and Disability - the law

The 2014 Children and Families Act changed the way support is given to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and or Disability (SEND) in England.

Relevant legal changes are set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 - PART 3 - Children and young people in England with special educational needs or disabilities

The SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years - Guidance on the special educational needs and disability (SEND) system for children and young people explains to local authorities, schools, and others how they are expected to carry out their duties under the Children's and Families Act.

Find out more about law and SEND in these Department for Education guides:

Significantly, the 2014 legal changes placed more importance on the views, wishes, and feelings of children and young people and their families. 

What do parents, carers, and young people need to know?

Participation – working together

Participation - Local authorities and health partners must work with parent carers and young people to improve services in their area, for example through their local parent carer forums and other parent carer groups, children’s and young people’s forums and youth councils.

Our Parent/Carer Forum is called HiP (Hackney Independent Parents) Forum.

Phone: 0798 5739 851

Web: Hackney Independent Parents Forum (HiP)

Find out more about participation: How Hackney consults with parents and carers of children with SEND and young people themselves

Help in the early years if your child has additional needs

Different childcare and education options are available. All providers should offer appropriate play and learning opportunities for the children they support and must be registered with Ofsted if they offer free early years education places.

All early years providers must follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework which sets out what providers must do to make sure children from the age of 0-5 learn and develop, and stay safe.

This includes having arrangements in place to identify and support disabled children, children who have or may have SEN and medical conditions.

How are children’s needs identified?

Early years settings use continual observation to assess how children learn.

The views and observations of parents/carers plays an important part of any evaluation of a child’s development.

This information helps the setting to plan activities tailored to the child’s individual interests and style of learning.

Children’s progress is formally reviewed when they are aged two and five. This review may be conducted by:

  • Health Visitors
  • Nursery Staff
  • Staff in Children’s Centres

This assessment enables settings to identify where a child is progressing well, and any areas where extra support within the setting or from other specialists may be needed. A written summary will be given to parents.

Two year olds progress checks

Two year olds progress check look at three key areas of learning and development:

  • language and communication – for example listening and following instructions
  • physical development – learning how to throw or push an object
  • personal, social and emotional development – for example learning how to play with other children.

Find out more: Hackney 27 Month Review

Five year old progress check

Most children will start school at some point in the school year when they turn five.

The five year old progress check Early years Foundation Stage EYFS assessment is usually undertaken by the class teacher during the last term of their reception year.

In addition to the above three areas this will show how the child is developing skills in:

  • literacy – for example predicting how a story might end
  • mathematics – for example comparing size and weight of different objects
  • understanding the world – for example being aware that other people are different
  • expressive arts and design – for example exploring what happens when colours are mixed.

Health visitors also check a child’s progress and developmental milestones between the age of two and

three so concerns may also be picked up this way.

Specialists such as an educational psychologist, speech and language therapist  or specialist teachers (for example teachers of children with visual impairment or hearing impairment) may all be involved in helping a child to learn.

Some families can access a home visiting education service called Portage.

Find out more: What support is there in the Early Years for children in Hackney aged 0 – 5?

Making decisions together to support your child...

Outcomes - Local authorities must offer support in a way that enables children and young people with SEND to achieve the best possible educational, health and social inclusion. This is to help them do more of what they want in life and as they grow into adults.

Joint decisions - Local authorities must make sure that young people and their families get the right information and support to take part in decisions which affect them.

Find out more: What is Person Centred Planning?

Information Advice and Support

Local authorities must ensure there is a source of independent information and advice available to parent carers and children and young people with SEN and disabilities.

In Hackney this service is known as Hackney SENDIAGS (SEND Information, Advice and Guidance Service).

Phone: 020 7275 6036


Other statutory organisations can also help. 

Hackney Ark Resource Centre - Information & Advice

City & Hackney Carers Centre

The Local Offer - relevant information in one place

Each local authority must publish a ‘local offer’ of information about different support the local authority expects to be available or on offer for the children and young people with SEN and disabilities who live in their area.

The Local Offer has two key purposes:

  • To provide clear, comprehensive, accessible, and up-to-date information about the available provision and how to access it.
  • To make provision more responsive to local needs and aspirations by directly involving disabled children and those with SEN and their parents, disabled young people and those with SEN, and service providers in its development and review.

If you are viewing this digitally you are on Hackney’s Local Offer website.

All local authorities provide information about services and support online. You can contact individual services for information also. 

Information sessions are often held at key times in the year to give parents/carers specific advice. 

Hackney’s Local Offer website shares information about:

  • SEND services across education, health, and social care for those aged 0-25
  • explains what support services from education health and social care may be able to offer families and young people
  • aims to make the information shared useful and helpful for families and young people
  • involves parents, carers, and young people and services themselves in making decisions about the information shared on the website

Local Offer websites have information for families, young people, and others e.g. professionals working with families. Having a shared understanding of local support helps us individually and collectively better anticipate, plan, and create opportunities for young people with SEND in Hackney.

Hackney’s Local Offer has a steering group that meets three times a year. The steering group includes:

There are regular opportunities to receive this information directly from professionals and services working with families are required to share their information via the Local Offer, assist families with using it, and have received or been offered training in how to do this.

Joint working - Education, health and social care services must work more closely together when they are deciding on the support available for children and young people with SEN and disabilities in their area.

Find out more: Hackney Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board

Extra support in mainstream school – SEN support

In mainstream schools there is a stage of support known as SEN Support.  Most children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) or a disability will attend mainstream schools.

Schools must "use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s SEN" SEND Code of Practice 6.2

  • Schools must identify pupils who have SEN and need extra help through SEN support.
  • They should record this in the school records.
  • They must tell you if they are making special educational provision for your child.
  • Schools must have a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who is responsible for arranging and
  • coordinating extra help for pupils with special educational needs.
  • School must publish an School SEN Information report telling parents how support for students with SEND works in their setting


The SENCO and teaching staff should identify the extra support your child needs in order to make progress using the “Assess, Plan, Do Review” cycle.

Find out more:

Education, Health and Care needs assessments

An EHC needs assessment is the first step to understanding if an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan is needed for your child or young person. The assessment should investigate a child or young person’s education, health and social care needs. The local authority in Hackney is responsible for the assessment.

The law says that a child or young person must have an EHC needs assessment if:

• they have, or may have, special educational needs (SEN), and
• it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made, in accordance with an EHC plan.

During the assessment children, young people and families should be asked for their views.

There should be a ‘tell us once’ approach, with a system for sharing information so that families don’t need to repeat information or have lots of separate assessments.

The EHC assessment process

Considering request - The local authority must write to you within six weeks to tell you if they agree to assess your child. 

A “no” to assess is not a “no” to support.

SEN support in mainstream schools

You can have mediation from and independent provider to explore the reasons for the assessment not being agreed.

What is mediation?

You have to appeal to the Tribunal within two months of getting the decision letter.

What is a tribunal?

If an EHC assessment is considered appropriate information will be requested from:

  • you, the parent
  • your child
  • your child’s education or other setting
  • health and social care professionals
  • specialist teachers if your child has a vision or hearing impairment
  • other people you or the young person being assessed would like to provide information and  that the local authority considers reasonable
  • for a child in Year 9 (age 14) or above, advice about preparing for adulthood and independent living.

The local authority will write to tell you whether or not they are going to make an EHC Plan, with reasons for the decision.

If they are not going to make a plan they must write to you within 16 weeks to tell you this.

You have a right to appeal if you do not agree with this decision.

Draft Plans - If the local authority agrees to make an EHC plan, a draft plan will be sent to you.

You have 15 days to comment on the contents of the plan, and to say which school or other education setting you would like your child to go to.

The local authority consults the school, college or other educational institution before naming it in the EHC plan.

Final Plan - is issued within a maximum of 20 weeks of the initial request however there are some cases where exceptional circumstances mean the assessment takes a bit longer. The Plan Coordinator will discuss this with you.

If your child has special educational needs and you are unhappy with a local authority decision to do with their education you can have informal mediation to see if your concerns can be addressed.  

You can have formal mediation from and independent provider to see if your concerns can be addressed. 

What is mediation?

You can appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.

What is a tribunal?

Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans

Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans can begin at birth for children with obvious and complex needs and might continue until a young person is 25, if they still need the extra support to complete their education or training.

Note: Not all children or young people with SEND will need an EHC Plan.

An EHC plan is a legal document that:

  • describes a child or young person’s special educational needs,
  • specifies and quantifies the special educational provision they will get at their nursery, school or further education college.

EHC Plans should describe:

• The child or young person’s views and future goals

• The outcomes the child or young person is expected to achieve

Health needs and provision linked to the child or young person’s special educational needs (SEN). Health provision included in a plan must be provided.

Social care needs and provision linked to the child or young person’s SEN.


Find out more:

Personal Budgets

Parent carers and young people may be able to receive a personal budget to fund educational, health or social care provision set out in an EHC plan. Parents of a child with an EHC plan, or a young person with an EHC plan, can request a Personal Budget either during the drafting of an EHC plan or once the plan has been issued and is under review.

A Personal Budget for SEN is money identified to pay for support specified in an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) for a child or young person with special educational needs.

There are four ways you can use a personal budget:

  • Arranged or Notional Budgets - the local authority, school or college look after the Personal Budget 
  • Direct Payments - you can receive money directly and manage all or part of the Personal Budget.
  • Third Party Arrangements - You can decide to have someone else to manage the Personal Budget for you.
  • A mixture of some or all of these arrangements.

Adult Social Services and some Health services also use personal budgets that do not require young people to have an EHC Plan.

Find out more: What is a Personal Budget?

Mental Capacity

Planning and decision making for young people

In year 9 at school when young people are aged 14 planning ahead should have an increased focus. Schools should work with employers, housing agencies, disability organisations and arts and sports groups to help children understand the choices they have as they get older.

Schools have a legal duty to provide impartial careers advice to all young people including those with SEND.

Find out more: Careers Advice in Hackney

Once a child is over 16 they will have a right to make decisions about the support made for them unless they lack mental capacity. Decisions about mental capacity are individual a related to each situation. Because a young person needs help making a decision about something does not mean that they cannot make other decisions independently.  

Parents and carers can be nominated by young people to assist with making decisions and taking relevant action. Young people aged 16 and over can receive independent advice and support with making decisions.

There may be instances where parent/carer decision making needs to be formalised including securing the following:  


Find out more:

Preparing for adulthood

Young people and their parents have the right to have high hopes for their future. Young people with special educational needs (SEN) may face additional barriers and challenges to achieving their goals. Being prepared for adult life means identifying the support young people need to live as full and active an adult life as possible.

Local authorities should be ambitious for children and young people with SEN, raising their aspirations and promoting high expectations about what they can achieve in school, college and beyond.” (SEND Code of Practice section 8.51)

Planning for any support needs and setting achievable targets will help young people and services achieve their goals.

Preparing for adulthood means preparing for:

  • higher education and/or employment
  • independence and independent living
  • participating in society: friendships and contributing to the local community
  • being as healthy as possible in later life.

Young people should be at the centre of planning for and making decisions about their future what they want to achieve, and the support needed to get there.

Further education colleges and settings now have similar duties to schools to support students with SEN. Young people under 25 who need more support may apply for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment.

Young people supported by an EHC Plan in education beyond 19 will have the EHC plan reviewed annually and evidence of the benefit to the young person’s education or training progress would be considered as part of the review.

An EHC plan can only remain in place if a young person has special educational needs (SEN) and stays in education or training. Although a young person may be entitled to health and social care support, significant health or social care needs alone are not enough for an EHC plan to continue.

If a young person leaves education, their health and social care needs will still be managed by the health service and local authority social services department.

An EHC plan can be stopped at any time if the local authority considers it is no longer needed. If the local authority is considering ceasing a plan they will consider whether the young person has achieved the education outcomes set out in their plan. If the outcomes were to get a job have got a job or go to university and this has been achieved the plan can be ceased.

Decisions to cease an EHC plan will be discussed at a review.


Moving to adult social care services with an EHC plan

From the age of 18 a young person will be transferred to adult social care services.

They should have a full assessment of the support they need, and any social care needs they have must be written into the EHC plan.

Find out more: 

Specialist SEND advice organisations and information for parents and carers…

Disabled Children - A Legal Handbook

Steve Broach practices across areas of public law, advising and representing:

  • individuals
  • charities
  • companies
  • public authorities

He has a particular interest and expertise in law relating to  health, education and social care, with a focus on disability and children’s rights cases.

He is a passionate advocate of children and parents rights with regard to SEND.

Steve has been instrumental in publishing Disabled Children: A Legal Handbook, an authoritative yet accessible guide to the legal rights of disabled children and their families in England. The book is in it's third edition and is available to buy but is also available to view and download for FREE from The Council for Disabled Children's website.

Disabled Children: A Legal Handbook

Steve Broach has made a series of short videos available about the legal context of:

  • school transport
  • school funding
  • short breaks
  • personal budgets and direct payments
  • health developments
  • welfare reform
  • housing benefit and council tax benefit
  • the children and families bill for parent forums.

Find Steve's Videos on law and disabled children here

Special Needs Jungle

“Special Needs Jungle creates easy to understand resources, articles and information for parents and carers of children with special needs, disabilities and health conditions to better enable them to navigate the special needs system. They aim to inform, educate and empower families to self-advocate confidently, so their children get the help they need to live the best life they can.”

Web: Special Needs Jungle website

Through the SEND reforms SNJ worked with relevant partners to provide parents with SEND Reforms Implementation updates and useful guides.

SNJ’s reforms guides and flow charts developed for the Department for Education and last updated in 2018 are available below to download as a visual resource. 

SNJ - Combined Chart (full colour PDF)

  2. Requesting an EHC Needs Assessment
  3. Conducting an EHC Needs Assessment
  4. What you can do if you disagree

 SNJ - Combined Chart (white background PDF)

  2. Requesting an EHC Needs Assessment
  3. Conducting an EHC Needs Assessment
  4. What you can do if you disagree

SNJ - Combined Chart  (sides 1 and 4 only for ease of printing PDF)

  • What you can do if you disagree

SNJ - Combined Chart (2 and 3 only white background for ease of printing PDF)

  • Requesting an EHC Needs Assessment
  • Conducting an EHC Needs Assessment

SNJ – Flow Chart - Annual Reviews of Education, Health & Care Plans (PDF)

Council for Disabled Children (CDC)

The Council for Disabled Children are an umbrella body for the disabled children's sector bringing together professionals, service providers and policy-makers. Parent-carers and others can find useful resources and information on the CDC website


Web: Council for Disabled Children

The CDC were a partner organiser for the Independent Support Programme - September 2014 - July 2018. This programme has now finished but SENDIAGS are still offering the same support to parents.


Contact support families by:

  • providing high quality guidance and information
  • bringing families together to support each other.
  • helping families to campaign, volunteer and fundraise to improve life for themselves and others.

Web: Contact For families with disabled children

Contact provide advice and information for families through their: 

  • digital information and resources
  • a Listening Ear service
  • workshops and events 
  • Freephone Helpline 0808 808 3555 from 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday

IPSEA – Independent Parental Special Education Advice

IPSEA offers free and independent legal information, advice and support for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The advice IPSEA provides helps parents and carers get the right education and the right support while in education for their child or young person's SEND. 

Phone: 01799 582030

Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm


National Autistic Society

The National Autistic Society are the leading UK charity for autistic people (including those with Asperger syndrome) and their families. Their website provides comprehensive information, advice and resources. They also offer helplines on a range of topics. 

Phone: 0808 800 4104




SOS! SEN are an organisation that offer free, friendly, independent and confidential telephone helpline for parents and others looking for information and advice on Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

Phone: 0300 302 3731 OR 0208 538 3731




SENSE are a national disability charity that supports people with complex communication needs to be understood, connected and valued.

Phone : 0300 330 9250


Preparing for Adulthood

Preparing for Adulthood (also called PfA for short) are an organisation funded by Department for Education (DfE) to provide expertise and support to local authorities and their partners to embed preparing for adulthood from the earliest years. Working to ensure that young people with SEND achieve paid employment, independent living, housing options, good health, friendships, relationships and community inclusion.

Phone: 01225 789135



In Control

In Control are a national charity working for an inclusive society where everyone has the support they need to live a good life and make a valued contribution.

Phone:  01564 821 650


ACE Education Advice & Training

ACE provides parents and carers with  independent advice and information on state education in England. 

Address: 72 Durnsford Road, London, N11 2EJ

Adviceline: 0300 0115 142 (Monday to Wednesday from 10am to 1pm / Term time only)




Families with a child who has a brain condition face everyday challenges every day. Cerebra’s Mission is to listen to families and use what they tell us to inspire research and innovation. Then we help them put the knowledge into practice.

Phone: 0800 3281159


Adress: Parents Support, FREEPOST SWC3360, Carmarthen, SA31 1ZY



Help and advice for single parents.


The Challenging Behaviour Foundation

The challenging Behaviour Foundation are a charity for people with severe learning disabilities who display behaviour described as challenging.

Family Support Line 0300 666 0126



Attachment Trauma Network

The Attachment Trauma Network mission is to promote healing of traumatized children and their families through support, education and advocacy.

Address: Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc. P.O. Box 79181, North Dartmouth, MA 02747




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Page last modified: 22/11/2023