Q My daughter has a statement that describes her as having social and communication difficulties. She is meant to receive 45 minutes per week of one-to-one speech and language therapy. In addition, the therapist is meant to spend some time with her teachers assisting them in developing a programme to encourage her communication skills during the school day.
However, for the past three months, no therapist has attended school. When I asked why, the school said it had been told by the local health authority (which employs the therapist) that she has gone on maternity leave, and that it has not yet been able to recruit a replacement. Is there anything that I can do?
A Where a child has a statement of special educational needs, the Education Act 1996 requires that the local education authority arranges provision - and a High Court case has held that the obligation is "non delegable" and "absolute".
This means that, in the first instance, a local education authority will be discharging its duty if the provision is "arranged", even if it is secured by another agency, such as the health authority.
However, if no other body provides it, then the requirement is for the local authority to do so, if necessary by hiring a private therapist. It cannot avoid this obligation because of lack of budget.
David Ruebain is a partner specialising in education and disability discrimination at the law firm Levenes. www.levenes.co.uk
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