In this section, we will describe how coronavirus has changed what might happen with co-ordinated support plans.
A co-ordinated support plan (CSP) is a legal document written to make sure that the additional support that children with multiple or complex needs receive is properly co-ordinated. Most children with additional support needs will not require a CSP, as their needs can be met through other forms of planning. There are specific criteria for CSPs, which you can read about in our Co-ordinated support plans factsheet.
As CSPs are legal documents, the law gives parents, carers and children aged 12 or over the right to request an assessment for a CSP, appeal decisions around CSPs and take disputes about them to the Additional Support Need Tribunal. The law also sets out lots of timescales around CSPs that local authorities must normally follow – for example, when they must get back to you if you have requested a CSP, and how frequently a CSP must to be reviewed.
Due to the coronavirus affecting the way schools and local authorities are able to work, the Scottish Government has made temporary changes to some laws. For CSPs, this means in some cases the local authority might not have to do everything they usually have to, or it may take them a bit longer to do things. For example, if a local authority cannot hold a CSP review within the normal timescale, this may be allowed if the reason is because of the other pressures the local authority is under in responding to coronavirus.
These changes to the normal laws affecting CSPs are being regularly reviewed. However, these or similar changes may continue on as we move through the phases of coming out of lockdown and getting children and young people back in to schools. We will keep our website up to date with the latest information.
If you have read our Co-ordinated support plans factsheet and think your child may be eligible for a CSP, you can still ask your local authority to assess if your child is eligible. Our factsheet explains how to make this request and what you should include in your request.
Normally, your local authority would have eight weeks to let you know whether they will accept your request to assess whether your child is eligible for a CSP (or 16 weeks if you made your request during the school summer holiday period). Usually, if they did not meet this deadline it is a ‘deemed refusal’ which means you can treat it like they have told you they will not assess if your child is eligible, and you can appeal to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.
However, while the law is changed for coronavirus, the local authority may be allowed to take longer than normal to get back to you. It will depend on the exact reason why they cannot meet the normal timescales.
At the moment, we suggest if you are still waiting for a response you can contact your local authority to ask them when they might get back to you. If you still do not hear back, or if you are not satisfied with how long it is going to take, you can contact Let’s Talk ASN for support.
Let’s Talk ASN is a free advocacy and legal support service available to parents and carers who have a right to go to the tribunal. They can also help you explore whether there are other ways you could resolve the issue, such as mediation.
If you have requested a CSP and your local authority agrees to assess whether your child should have one, they must write to you to let you know. They normally would then have 16 weeks to assess whether your child needs a CSP, and if they do need one, they also must produce the completed plan within this time.
Under the normal laws before coronavirus, there were already some circumstances when a local authority could take a bit longer, with a maximum time limit of 24 weeks. This includes situations like when the local authority need information from schools during the summer holidays, or if they have asked for help from another agency putting together your plan (for example, the health board) and that agency has been delayed in responding.
This means that if the local authority is asking for help from another agency who are delayed because of the impact of coronavirus on their agency, this may delay the time it takes for the local authority to assess and produce your child’s plan.
If the local authority becomes aware that they need longer than normal to prepare your plan, they should let you know and provide a new date by which the process will be completed.
Local authorities and schools are currently needing to prioritise things like planning for schools reopening in a way that will be safe for their pupils. So if doing this priority work means they cannot meet their normal duties or deadlines relating to CSPs, the law has been changed to allow for this. These changes to the law are being regularly reviewed and may continue for some time. We will keep our website updated with the latest information.
If your request for a CSP is refused, you can still appeal this decision to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal. However, most hearings have been postponed until at least after the end of June 2020. This means there might be a delay in getting your case heard, and changes in the way it is dealt with.
Our page on ‘What do the changes mean for the Additional Support Needs Tribunal? explains more. If you are considering appealing the local authority’s decision to refuse your CSP request, Let’s Talk ASN may be able to offer you some free advocacy and legal support. They can also help you explore whether there are other ways you could resolve the issue, such as mediation.
Normally a CSP must be reviewed at least every 12 months, however local authorities and schools are currently needing to prioritise things like planning for schools reopening in a way that will be safe for their pupils. So, if doing this priority work means they need more time than normal to review your child’s CSP, the law has been changed to allow for this. These changes to the law are being regularly reviewed and may continue for some time. We will keep our website updated with the latest information.
If your child’s CSP is due to be reviewed and you have not heard anything, or if their review date has already passed, you can get in touch with the CSP coordinator (who should be named on your child’s CSP). You can ask them when and how a review might take now take place. If you do not hear back from them, or if you are worried about their response, there are different options you can consider.
You can contact your local authority’s additional support for learning contact to discuss your concerns. If you have already tried this, you could request mediation with the local authority to try and help you agree how and when your child’s CSP should be reviewed in the current circumstances. You could also get in touch with Let’s Talk ASN for advice and support in resolving the situation, which could include going to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.
As a CSP is a legal document, normally the support written in your child’s CSP must be provided. Usually families can make a reference to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal if they feel the local authority has failed to provide the support in their child’s CSP. However, due to the coronavirus and things like the school closures during lockdown, the support your child is getting at the moment may look very different from normal and from what is written in their CSP.
The changes in law due to coronavirus mean that if local authorities have not been able to provide the same support that is in your child’s CSP due the steps they are taking to respond to the pandemic, this may be allowed.
This does not mean your child should not be supported – just that it may look different. What support they should and should not still be receiving will depend on the type of support your child normally gets, and what is reasonable and possible in the current situation.
If you feel your child needs more support, you can contact the school or the CSP co-ordinator (who should be named on your child’s CSP) to discuss your concerns.
If you feel the lack of support is not due to the coronavirus pandemic, if the issue started before the coronavirus situation, or if you are still worried about your child’s support after speaking to the school or CSP coordinator, there are further steps you can take.
You can contact your local authority’s additional support for learning contact to discuss your concerns. If you have already tried this, you could request mediation with the local authority or school to try and help you agree how your child’s CSP and supports can be adapted in the current circumstances. You could also get in touch with Let’s Talk ASN for advice and support in resolving the situation, which could include going to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.
We know some people will be concerned about what these changes mean in practice and how they may affect your child’s education and support.
If you have further questions about CSPs or if you would like to talk through what these changes mean for your child and their CSP, you can contact our helpline for further advice.