Learning difficulty assessments (LDAs) - Your questions answered

Over recent weeks we have experienced an increase in enquiries from concerned parents and young people who (1) will be moving on to further education in September or (2) are already in further education but where they have been told that continued funding for their course is still undecided.

When will my child’s learning difficulty assessment come to an end?

Young people who are currently supported in their further education by a learning difficulty assessment (LDA) need to know that their LDA will end by 31 August 2016.

This means that, if they intend to continue with their education after that date, and if they will require support, they will need to move on to an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). They will need to have asked for an EHC needs assessment before now or need to do so immediately. The EHC needs assessment, leading to a final EHCP can take as long as 20 weeks, or longer in many cases.

Our experience is that many parents and young people are unaware that LDAs are ending imminently.  Not all local authorities (LAs) or colleges are letting young people and their families know this.

Who maintains my child’s learning difficulty assessment?

Generally, LDAs are not maintained by LAs in the same way as statements of special educational needs (SSENs) or EHCPs. In many LAs, LDAs are maintained by outside agencies. The latest Department for Education (DfE) statistics state that this is why LAs do not always have accurate records for the number of LDAs in place. This is worrying. Under s139 Learning and Skills Act 2000, LAs had a duty to arrange for an LDA for all young people who had a SSEN and who were moving on to further education. They had discretion for making LDAs for others.

If LAs do not have accurate information of the number of young people in their areas who have an LDA, then this explains why so many young people and their families have failed to be guided to seek an EHC needs assessment.

Without an EHCP in place by September 2016, many young people will not have access to the support that they need to start or continue a course. In some cases this also includes funding for the placement itself. Some colleges will not accept students without the additional funding that an EHCP brings. Given that it can take up to 20 weeks to get an EHCP, this is putting many young people and their families in a precarious situation.

What is the DfE doing to make sure that all 16-25 year olds know about their right to ask for an EHC needs assessment?

I am so happy at the outcome, I don't think we would have had such a comprehensive service from any other law firm, and you took the worry away...I do not regret a single second of the whole process, apart from the bit before you got involved. 

James' mother, Boyes Turner client

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