The statutory duty
The SEND Code of Practice sets out the statutory duty upon local authorities to publish a Local Offer and annual report.
Local authorities must publish a Local Offer, setting out in one place information
about provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care
for children and young people in their area who have SEN or are disabled, including
those who do not have Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.
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, and
- To make provision more responsive to local needs and aspirations by directly involving disabled children and those with SEN and their parents, and disabled young people and those with SEN, and service providers in its development and review
The Local Offer should be:
- collaborative: local authorities must involve parents, children and young people in developing and reviewing the Local Offer. They must also co-operate with those providing services
- accessible: the published Local Offer should be easy to understand, factual and jargon-free. It should be structured in a way that relates to young people’s and parents’ needs (for example by broad age group or type of special educational provision). It should be well signposted and well publicised
- comprehensive: parents and young people should know what support is expected to be available across education, health and social care from age 0 to 25 and how to access it. The Local Offer must include eligibility criteria for services where relevant and make it clear where to go for information, advice and support, as well as how to make complaints about provision or appeal against decisions
- up-to-date: when parents and young people access the Local Offer it is important that the information is up-to-date
- transparent: the Local Offer should be clear about how decisions are made and who is accountable and responsible for them
Local authorities must publish comments about their Local Offer received from or on behalf of children with SEN or disabilities and their parents and young people with SEN or disabilities.
Comments must be published if they relate to:
- the content of the Local Offer, which includes the quality of existing provision and any gaps in the provision
- the accessibility of information in the Local Offer
- how the Local Offer has been developed or reviewed.
It is up to local authorities to decide on the format for publishing comments but they should consult children and young people with SEN or disabilities and parents and representative organisations such as Parent Carer Forums and local organisations providing information, advice and support to parents, children and young people about this, including the local authority’s Information, Advice and Support Service.
They should make clear how they have sought comments about the Local Offer.
Local authorities must publish a summary of comments at least annually. Local authorities are not expected to publish responses to every comment individually but can, for example, adopt a ‘you said, we did’ approach. Local authorities are not required to publish abusive or vexatious comments or complaints about the service provided to an individual since there are established routes to bring such complaints.