Category Archives: News

Information from our Virtual AGM 2020

We held our AGM several weeks ago online for the 1st time ever!

Our Co-Chairs Mandy Dickson and Kate Walters shared the Chair’s report, updating members what the forum had been doing since the last AGM in June 2019. Click here to read the report in full.

We had guest speaker Oliver Jude join us, he is a 16 year old diagnosed with Autism and has an inspiring story to tell, about how he took control of his own EHCP and then set up his own clothing business up whilst still at school, you can find out more about his story by clicking here. Oliver also has his own YouTube show called the ‘OJ Show’. Feedback from our attendees included: ‘He was really inspiring!!’ and ‘was brill what an inspiration‘. Click here to check out his YouTube show.

Jacky Forster (Chair of the SEND Partnership) and Laura Rogerson (SEND Head of Service) also both attended. Thank you to all our members who submitted responses for Jacky & Laura. During the presentation they shared information and updates on the themes relating to the questions submitted and have committed to give full answers to the specific questions shortly. We will share the response as soon as we have it.

Please click here to see Jacky and Laura’s Presentation.

Information for settings: Temporary changes to EHCPs (Coronavirus Act 2020)

The following resources have been sent to all settings in Cheshire East to explain and assist in the process of assessing whether it is possible for the EHCP provision for each child / young person to be met during the Coronavirus restrictions

Guidance and communication for parents can be seen here

Information and guidance for parent carers on temporary amendments to EHCPs (Coronavirus Act 2020 & “reasonable endeavours”)

Cheshire East Council has written to all parent carers who have children / young people with Education Health and Care Plans, this should be sent to you by their setting (nursery, school or college)

You can click here to read the letter from Cheshire East to parent carers

Temporary amendments to EHC plans: Information for parent carers in Cheshire East

If your child or young person has an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan, you will soon hear from someone (usually the SENCO)  from their setting (nursery, school or college) to discuss whether it is possible to deliver the provision that is agreed in their EHC plan (Sections F, G & H)

Normally there is no grey area in the law – if there’s something in these sections of the EHC plan then the Local Authority has a legal duty to ensure it happens.   At the moment, however, because of coronavirus, there may be some aspects that can’t be delivered, or that have to be delivered in a different way.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, the law says that Local Authorities must use “reasonable endeavours” to ensure that provision is delivered, but it acknowledges that this may not be possible.  This is a temporary change, initially running from 1- 31 May 2020 with the expectation that it will be reviewed monthly by the Secretary of State, and extended so that it remains in force while the coronavirus is having such an impact on the community and services.

In addition, from 1 June 2020 the Department for Education guidance states that all children and young people with EHC plans should be encouraged to attend, however there will be no pressure on parents that their children need to attend.  This process should support the schools, parents and young people in thinking through this decision.

What changes might be made?

The settings will work with the parent carer / young person to look for ways to make it work, or alternative ways to deliver provision

There must be no blanket policies about what can and can’t be done – each child / young person’s provision must be considered individually

Changes can only be made for coronavirus related reasons

For some people it may be possible for provision to be unchanged; for example “small group work” is likely to be a part of the “new normal” for everyone in our schools for the time being, access to equipment or use of certain strategies could be unaffected

For some, there may have to be a temporary change to how provision is delivered; for example alterations to the frequency and timing of provision in school, like a part time timetable or phased return to build up to full days; temporary placement in another school, attendance at a local hub, video class sessions, home learning reading programme, specialist SEN teachers providing advice and support for parents, Speech and Language Therapy or OT delivering therapy via video link

For others it may simply not be possible to deliver some of their provision at this time; for example, they may be shielding so unable to attend their usual setting, and unable to engage with “school work” at home

The setting, parents / young person can refer to the LA and health commissioning bodies who should always look to see if there are ways to deliver the provision in their EHC plan

Any changes agreed are not permanent, and are not actual changes to your child / young person’s EHC plan – this is not a review.

The provision agreed must be kept under review to make sure it is still suitable for the child/ young person’s needs and any changes to circumstances in order that the LA is able to fulfil their “reasonable endeavours” duty. It will be reviewed at the end of each half term or as changes occur to provision.

Once the Coronavirus Act is no longer in force the LA will again have the legal duty to ensure that the provision in the Education Health and Care Plan is delivered.

What is the process in Cheshire East?

All settings have been sent the guidance information and paperwork below to explain the process; this information for settings (together with this parent carers’ guidance document) will be available on the Live Well site, or you can read the guidance and information for settings here.

A member of staff (usually the SENCO) will complete the form for each child / young person at their setting who has an EHC plan. They will contact the child / young person and their parent to discuss their current circumstances and the provision in the EHC plan.

You and your child / young person will be asked to share your ideas and suggestions, and any concerns you may have about the provision they have been receiving and any alternatives that are proposed.

The Department for Education is encouraging LAs to look for solutions, and Cheshire East want to share the ideas and suggestions of new ways of doing things that people come up with; if you come up with something new then others may benefit too!  If in your discussions, you can’t find a way for provision to be delivered then the SENCO can refer to Cheshire East for ideas.

If you are not satisfied with the amendments, then you too can email with the subject “Urgent – Support Required” to ask for support.

Any questions?

This is yet another new thing in these unprecedented times, there are sure to be things that haven’t been thought of and questions that haven’t been answered – please help us to identify and fill in any gaps.

If do have any questions or concerns about this process, please get in touch. If we don’t know we will try to find it out.

  • Parent carers can contact the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum call 07794431768 and join in the conversation on our Facebook group – we would love to hear what you think and what your experiences are so we can feedback into the SEND Partnership. We would also really like to share any good ideas you have come up with to support your children and young people
  • You can also contact Cheshire East Information Advice and Support (CEIAS) who are available to provide free, independent support to parents and young people. Click here for CEIAS website and “contact us” form or call 0300 123 5166 and leave a message.

For legal information and support for families, children & young people with additional needs and SEND during the pandemic,

  • IPSEA’s website has information about SEND law, including these recent amendments, which is being updated regularly.
  • Contact’s website has added some great resources and information about Covid-19 coronavirus for families with disabled children

Back to school… information and resources to support children & young people

Supporting children and young people to return to nursery, school or college

Many families are now thinking about their children returning to nursery, school or college.

Cheshire East Autism Team (CEAT) recognise that it is very important to look at preparing for this transition. The team are sending advice out to schools but also felt it is vital that families are supported during this uncertain time. Here are some resources that may help

Click here for “Bad Mood Busters”

Click here for Morning routine activity

Click here for “My thought record” completed example

Click here for “My thought record” template

Click here for “My lockdown experience”

Click here for “Step Plan” – example of a step by step approach to managing an anxiety

Click here for “Transitioning back to school guide for parents and carers”

Click here for “Transitioning back to School” document



Where will my stress get me

Cheshire East SEND, COVID update (3): EHIPs, reasonable adjustments, Priority service to support carers

Last week, parent representatives collated some of your queries and raised a some of your concerns with the SEND partnership.  They have asked us to share their responses with you

See also

Short breaks: using EHIPS for respite during lockdown

We shared with the SEND partnership that the impact of current restrictions has been having a massive impact on some of our children & young people and their families. The usual respite afforded by them going to nursery, school or college may not be available, and access to many of the activities that they enjoy is limited.

Response:  In Cheshire East we have only had one park that was temporarily closed, Queens Park, Crewe.  Many children’s play grounds remain closed due to being unable to manage social distancing and keep children and families safe.  Unfortunately, we are unable to open leisure centres as these are closed in line with clear government guidelines and it is not at our discretion to re-open these, even for specific groups.

We will review this, in line with any changes to the current national restrictions.

For Parent Carers accessing EHIPs the Short Breaks Team are happy to discuss an alternative/creative use to the funding agreed during this difficult time.

Some examples have included

  • Online dance/singing/gymnastics lessons
  • Garden toys and equipment
  • Xbox live
  • Disney channel subscriptions
  • Facetime/Skype with Carers

If you can identify something which your child/young person will enjoy and will keep them occupied so you can sit back and have a short break then please email us at

Reasonable adjustments & updated guidance

On 9 April the Government issued updated guidance around reasonable adjustments to the rules for leaving the house to exercise, and how they apply to people with conditions including Autism and Learning Disabilities. You can click here to read this guidance (scroll to point number 15)

There has been discussion about people needing to prove their “eligibility” – some areas have been issuing cards and letters, others using sunflower lanyards etc. If you are concerned about being put on the spot, Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum suggest that you could take a photograph of your child or young person’s SEN support plan / EHC plan / DLA letter / PIP letter / clinic letters (or any other paperwork you may have) to keep on your phone so that you can show it if you need to.  You can also refer anyone who challenges you to the guidance above.

In addition, the Director of Commissioning at Cheshire East has asked the Cheshire East Carers Hub to send a letter to all users who are registered with them  to confirm that they are a carer. This letter will be sent by post or by email (depending on the carers’ contact preferences). It confirms that the person is a carer & is registered with the Carers Hub, that they may need to travel to and from the house more frequently because of their caring responsibilities, and that a priority has been agreed to allow them to gain access to establishments without queuing and avoid long waits to ensure they can return to their home as quickly and safely as possible.

If you have not had a letter / are not registered with the Cheshire East Carers Hub, please get in touch with them directly – call 0300 303 0208 or email 

click here for Cheshire East Carers Hub information 

Additional support for families that cannot safely get out for essentials

We also asked if there is anything in place to support families, especially single parent families, with the logistics of trying to leave the house for essentials while they have a child or young person at home full time. We explained that for many of our children & young people, the social distancing rules and additional waiting times can be very challenging.

They advised that these families can register with the helping people service that has been set up to do tasks like grocery shopping, collecting prescriptions etc during these circumstances. If you would like to register for support please visit this site and complete the forms

Cheshire East SEND, COVID update (2): Post 16 options, Transition arrangements, Plans for reopening settings,

Last week, parent representatives collated some of your queries and raised a some of your concerns with the SEND partnership.  They have asked us to share their responses with you

The PCF would really welcome your responses, any thoughts, suggestions, ideas, good practice you have experienced, bad experiences that can be learned from… please email

See also:

Post 16 options

We asked the SEND partnership about the Preparing for Adulthood information events that had to be cancelled, and how parents and young people can get information and advice, both generally and individually

Response:  We agree there was great disappointment that the Preparing for Adulthood (PFA) events had to be cancelled. We had so many providers coming, and the message was spread far and wide.  We are looking at how we may offer the same advice but virtually, and will also look at using PFA packs that were developed in 2019 to get this information to our children and young people and their parents and carers

Transition years

We raised specific concerns about how transition arrangements can be adapted for children & young people who will be moving to a new setting in September, as this would usually be well under way by this point. We know that some members have been really pleased with the support they have had from current and / or new settings (given difficult circumstances) however others are feeling like they do not have any support.

Response: We are currently looking at how we can support transition, including for those changing schools/setting. We would like to be able to have something in place as soon as possible, but as you will appreciate, we need to comply with the current government restrictions.  We are considering the potential of virtual tours, video calls to meet new teachers, and information packs if we are unable to support visits, as well as targeted support and information for particular groups. We are having an initial call with schools to discuss ideas and would also welcome any input from parents about what transition support you think would be helpful.

Post 16 transition arrangements for September 2020.  If you have any queries on post 16 or adult services provision for September, please make contact through the email addresses below.  They will coordinate your query and ensure a response.

Reopening schools

We asked for some information about how the SEND partnership is planning to support children & young people to return to their educational settings once they are able to reopen.

Response:  As I am sure you will appreciate until announcements are made on relaxing the current restrictions it is difficult for us to put any plans in place….it will be complex to manage transition back to nursery, school or college as it will take some time to even reinstate transport arrangements safely and ensure social distancing.  As you have stated it is unknown when schools will return.

[we have been assured that once any announcement is made the SEND partnership will work with the PCF to develop local arrangements. If you have any thoughts, concerns, suggestions etc that would really help the parent reps to represent our members better – please email or call 07794431768]

Cheshire East SEND, COVID update (1): places during closures, SEN team, EHC processes & family support

Last week, parent representatives collated some of your queries and raised a some of your concerns with the SEND partnership.  They have asked us to share their responses with you

See also:

Places for children & young people with EHC plans during the current closures: 

We raised that some parents who felt their child or young person’s needs could not be safely met at home were unable to access a placement, either because the school was not supportive or because the provision they were able to offer in current circumstances would not be suitable. 

Response: The DfE guidance is clear that many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home.  We have asked all educational setting to complete a risk assessment to inform whether a child or young person needs to continue to be offered a school/college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home.

We have launched a specific email address for parents to contact if they feel their child does need to attend school and we will review the risk assessment in these cases and facilitate a discussion about whether a child or young person should return to school.

Please note this is for queries specifically relating to wanting your child to attend school during the current school closure and not about a child’s plan or needs assessment.

In attending school at this time, it is important that parents understand that the experience for their child will be different than pre-closure.  For example, most schools have staff on rotas so there will be changes in teaching staff and teaching assistants, they may be using different classrooms and the structure of the day will be different.  We appreciate this may be unsettling for some children and therefore the needs of some children will be best met at home.  Schools are focusing primarily on ensuring they care for the child in a way that meets their needs.

SEND team communication

We raised that some members have been reporting difficulty making contact with the SEND team, with emails going unanswered.  We explained that we have been signposting people to the new email address and asked if other mailboxes were being checked as some service users might not be aware of the change.

Response: We have received numerous compliments from parents about the level of contact during the recent pandemic which is very pleasing and reassuring as staff are working extremely hard and often going above and beyond to try to support families.   Co-production will take place either when writing the draft plan or the draft plans may be issued and then a telephone call takes place to discuss the draft plan and make changes. There has been increased communication with families throughout the process.

Impact of closures upon needs assessments / Annual Reviews 

[NOTE – this response was sent at 3pm on 30/04/20, before the changes to legislation were announced Click here for more information on temporary amendments to the Children & Families Act effective 01/05/20. The PCF has had contact from the SEND partnership about working together to understand how these changes may affect CE SEND team services – if you would like to share your views with parent reps so that they can better represent you, please email]

We passed on concerns about the impact of closures upon normal EHC processes including needs assessments and annual reviews.

Response:  We are continuing to process Need Assessments, but where a child has not been known to our Educational Psychology team it is difficult for them to provide child-centred, quality advice.  Also, Health colleagues have said they will issue advice based on contact they have had, but again new assessments will be difficult to complete.

SEND panel has continued to take place every two weeks as per previous arrangements, these have taken place as virtual meetings and we have had full attendance from all multi agency panel members.

We are happy to have conversations about what additional support we could put in place where a needs assessment has not been submitted as parents and/or schools do not have information to support progressing to a need’s assessment, especially where this is needed to support transition.  This may then enable us to ensure appropriate provision is in place in the interim and importantly enable good quality advice to ensure the EHCP is of good quality.

Click here for specific advice issued about how the Cheshire East SEN team will work with settings to process Annual reviews. Again, please note that this advice was issued prior to the legal amendments effective 31/05/2020

Support for Families

We raised some general concerns about the difficulties some of our members have been experiencing trying to support their child / young person’s learning at home, and without the “respite” offered by their attendance at educational settings.

Response:  We are aware of the challenges that all parents are facing in having their children at home for such an extended period.  We have looked to provide support in terms of the following for children with an EHC plan to ensure we can meet their need as best as is possible in the circumstances:

  • Provision of tailored online support linked to the different types of needs
  • Specialist advice has been provided for school SENCOs to help them to support children and families.
  • Advice online for parents, focused on self-care as well as ideas for supporting children/young people with Special Educational Needs during the day, including an Occupational Therapy timetable.
  • Tuition at home continues for those previously being supported through this team
  • New helpline for parents who feel their child’s need can be better met at school to help facilitate them starting back at school where it is appropriate.

I am also aware that most schools are continuing to keep regular contact with children and families and offer support.  We are planning further guidance for schools which will share some of the best practice that is taking place.


CEAT: information for parents & schools regarding service provision during the coronavirus COVID19 situation

Click here to read CEAT Information for Parents and Schools during Coronavirus as a pdf

Cheshire East Autism Team (CEAT) Information for parents and schools regarding service provision during the coronavirus COVID-19 situation

During this very difficult time, we in the Cheshire East Autism Team want to assure all our parent/carers and schools that we are here to support you and are continuing to provide key services, albeit through new and different means of communication. In order to provide the best support in these unprecedented times, we have modified systems in place.

• All members of our team are working
• This includes all Specialist Teachers, Specialist Support Assistants, our Speech and Language Therapist and our Family Liaison Officer
Although all team members are working remotely at this time, we will aim to continue to provide the following:
• Specialist advice and guidance to parents, schools, and other agencies
• Links to useful information
As far as possible, within Government Guidelines for social distancing and the minimising of contact, all members of the team will aim to work flexibly with parents and families, educational and medical professionals, as well as any other agencies that may be involved with the child.
How to contact us:
If you have a question or an issue you would like to discuss with one of our team, you can email us on
Please let us know:
• your name
• your relationship to the child/young person
• the child/young person’s age
• the concern you have
• your phone number if you would like us to telephone you
We will then email you a response with some guidance and advice.

All contact will be acted on and we will aim to respond as soon as possible. Please bear in mind, however, that we are a small team and how quickly we can respond will depend upon the number of requests we receive.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you need to. We know that this is a difficult and challenging time for us all, but the Cheshire East Autism Team is here to help you in any way we can.
We hope you and your families are, and remain, safe and well.

We have placed a range of resources which we hope will be helpful on the CEAT website:
This can also be accessed by googling Cheshire East Autism Team or through the Cheshire East Live Well website, which we will continue to update over the coming weeks. Other useful sources of support include:
The National Autistic Society (NAS) have useful resources on their website and are also available on twitter with help and advice (link to social distancing story) (SALT activities)
Young Minds – Talking to your child about Coronavirus and 10 tips from their Parents Helpline to support family wellbeing:

Teaching your child at home
Schools have been sending a lot of information and resources home. Whilst this is helpful, it can also feel overwhelming.


  • You are not a teacher, so if it’s a tough day, 5 minutes of maths is better than none.
  • Starting small and building up can be helpful
  • Try and take the pressure off; remember children who are in school aren’t following the national curriculum; schools are providing child care only.
  • The work that schools are sending home is revision and recapping.
    Education and learning is about more than literacy and numeracy. This could be a unique opportunity to support and encourage your child to learn valuable life skills, e.g.
  • Doing any activity together is a way of developing your child’s social communication and social understanding,
  • Activities such as gardening, cooking, household chores, using money and helping with shopping are also essential aspects of your child’s learning, so try to encourage them to be involved.
  • Continue to model appropriate social skills, for example use games to support your child in taking turns with others. Ask your child to ask family members what they would like to eat/ drink or what would they like to play. These social scripts will support and develop their social skills further.

This is a time to just be, regroup and, if at all possible, enjoy. We have put together the following guidelines to help you:

Firstly, children and young people needing to know ‘why’ is key. It helps them understand the purpose of the task. Each household’s ‘why’ will be different, for example “because when you go back to school we need to make sure you are up to date with your learning”.

This can be done using a social story, or the ‘why do I have to’ formula, which involves collaborating with the young person to try and find ideas that may help.

Structure and routines:

  • Be clear and consistent and make things visual whenever possible. Resources and visuals can be downloaded from the websites listed above. These can be very useful but you can always make your own with your young person. These can include photographs, drawings, lists and drawing on a white board. Just make sure that the young person understands what they are looking at.
  • Try and give children an element of choice, as this can be a good motivator, as they feel they have some control over the activity. An immediate decision they could make is give their new ‘school’ a name and design a badge.
  • Establish rules (not too many) and make them visual and visible.
  • Share your ‘power’ as the authority figure with your child. This helps to increase a child’s confidence and decision making skills by empowering him or her to participate in educational decisions. This also helps develop critical thinking skills.
  • Let your child select a curriculum that includes topics of interest, appeals to visual strengths and provides the kind of structure that works for them.
  • Use a calendar, family planner or white board to show ‘school days’, ‘no-school days’ and ‘holidays’ visually.
  • Try and make a visual time table. A white board can be good for this, as it builds in flexibility. Try and involve the young person in this. You can set up a framework of some constants e.g. times of ‘school’ day, lunch and breaks. You may decide there are some non-negotiables, e.g. getting out of pyjamas, and also some tasks that need to be completed every day. You could also have a list of options that can be done after the ‘compulsory’ tasks. It may help to grade them e.g. 1- non-negotiable, 2- desirable and 3 extras – almost a pick and mix menu.
  • Keep this visual timetable visible to your child, so they can view it daily and check it through the day. Try and make it interactive so they can check off things they do throughout the day.
  • If possible, try to allocate a specific work space. This way your child can primarily associate this space with their learning and will find it easier to switch off when in other parts of the house.
  • Use the young person’s passions/ fixations to engage them. Try and find an aspect of your child’s favourite topic that can be incorporated into their learning activities.
  • Some children may need to have tasks planned for the day/ week before. If this is the case then make sure you build in alternatives, e.g.’ If it’s dry we will… but if it’s wet we will…’
  • Other children may prefer to have a ‘planning meeting’ every morning.
  • Starting a question for your child will help them to understand how to start their own question.
  • Your child will often struggle to know where to begin on a page or how much to write. Put a dot on the page to indicate where to start and where to stop on the page.

Sensory and physical activities:

  • Try and build physical activity and movement breaks throughout the day which will allow you and your child to relax and refocus.
  • It is important to build in time alone for our children. Some children with ASC need extended periods (up to an hour) alone at regular periods during the day. If a child does not have their own bedroom or ‘space’, then try using a visual. For example, a ‘do not disturb’ sign can be put on the door of a shared bedroom to indicate that it is the young persons alone time. Siblings could be taught about the need to respect this. A box of activities could be set up to do during alone time.

Emotional and social support:

  • Try and give plenty of warning and preparation about changes to the schedule and build in alternatives.
  • A great way to monitor progress and understanding is by flipping the classroom dynamic. After you have covered a topic, swap the pupil/ teacher role and get the young person to teach you what they have learned. This is another opportunity to give them choice; they can plan and teach the lesson.
  • Try and keep some contact with school and friends. Consider email, Skype and other communication apps, and letters. These activities can be incorporated into learning.
  • Support and encourage your young person to talk about their feelings and explore with them ways of staying calm and relaxed. Again, there are resources which can be downloaded from the websites listed above.
  • If your child is feeling stressed/ upset, it is useful to plan times for relaxation. There are various methods of destressing, which will be different for each child. Some young people may require sensory toys to help them to maintain focus or to calm themselves. Some children like to use fiddle toys or weighted blankets. Others may want to play with slime, kinetic sand or blow bubbles. There are many suppliers online who can offer these types of equipment/resources.
  • Use a five point scale (see CEAT website) to help your child to be able to communicate their feelings. You could also use five point scale characters (found online), so that it is more fun for younger children.
  • A mood band on the wrist, which is green one side and red on the other side, to indicate subtly what mood your child is feeling, can be useful, as the young person may struggle to communicate this emotion to you and to others.

Update from Health on delivering services during COVID19 restrictions

The SEND team has forwarded an update from Health with regards to how they are continuing to support children and families during this time for the PCF to share with members:

  • Therapists are maintaining contact with families via phone calls at the moment, and through face to face appointments (South Cheshire only) if absolutely needed.
  • Orthotics appointments are being maintained, as are equipment checks as required.
  • Some work is still continuing in special schools were need is required, although reduced due to lower numbers of children
  • A dysphagia service (SALT service for feeding and swallowing difficulties) is continuing as normal.
  • Skype or virtual clinics are being used as well, specifically with speech and language staff.
  • Staff are liaising with schools where they are still open, and linking in with them and parents as required.
  • There is a contact number that has been shared with all parents also for all services. ECT SALT have a Facebook page that has had a high number of views.
  • Feedback from parents has been positive and supportive

If you have any questions you would like our parent representatives to ask, or concerns you would like them to raise, please email

Joint letter from Dept for Health & Social Care & Dept. for Education 30 April 2020

Click here to read joint DHSC & DFE Ministerial Letter as a pdf

Vicky Ford MP – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children & Families, issued the following open letter on 30 April 2020: 

To all children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their parents/carers and families, and others who support them

As Ministers responsible for children and young people with SEND and their health needs, we wanted to write to let you know that we are committed to doing everything possible to support you during this difficult time.

None of us have faced a challenge like this in our lifetimes. Our response to the pandemic has different impacts on different people, but we know that these have been particularly hard for those children and young people with complex health needs, learning disabilities, autism and behaviour that challenges, and their families.

Supporting the most vulnerable children, young people and adults is a priority for us at this time. We want to ensure that children and young people with SEND are supported as well as possible in these difficult circumstances and want to update you on some changes to the law and other actions we are taking in order to enable this.

Changes to the law
We are temporarily changing the law regarding Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans in two key ways. Firstly, we have issued a notice under the Coronavirus Act 2020 confirming that local authorities and health commissioning bodies (e.g. Clinical Commissioning Groups) must now use their reasonable endeavours to secure the provision set out within a child or young person’s EHC plan. This means that local authorities and health bodies must consider, for each child and young person with an EHC plan, what they need to provide during the period of the notice. This may result in a child or young person’s provision being different from that which is set out in their EHC plan, but local authorities and health services will still seek to support the needs of the child or young person in the new circumstances we find ourselves in. For example, they may offer support virtually rather than face to face. This legal change will be in force from 1st to 31st May 2020 and may be extended.

Secondly, where a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus applies, the usual timescales in regulations for various EHC processes will be replaced by requirements on local authorities, health care professionals and others to act as soon as reasonably practicable (or in line with any other timing requirement in the regulations being amended). These changes will be in force from 1st May to 25th September 2020 and we will be keeping this under review.
We have published detailed guidance alongside these temporary changes. A link to this guidance can be found at:

We know that as parents and others involved in the care of this vulnerable group, your primary concern is their health and wellbeing. As the Ministers for SEND and Care, we share those concerns and want to reassure you that these changes are temporary and all other requirements of the EHC process remain unchanged. The changes are designed to balance the needs of children and young people with the ability of local authorities and health services to respond to the outbreak.

Our aim is that, as far as practicable during this difficult period, EHC processes continue so that children and young people still get help and support whilst accepting that this may have to be done differently. We expect commissioning bodies – and the services they commission – to maintain education, health and care provision for vulnerable children, and also to extend extra support, where possible, to families in most need – recognising that home isolation is extremely hard for many children and young people with SEND and their families.

In addition, we want to emphasise that co-production, partnership and communication remain critical.

Keeping children and young people with EHC plans in education
For those with EHC plans, we are asking local authorities and educational providers to work with families and the child or young person to carry out an individual risk assessment to judge whether the child or young person’s needs can be more safely met at home or at their educational setting. We recognise that some children and young people may be better off with the greater continuity and structure that education brings and that some of those with the most complex needs may need access to support that cannot be provided at home.
We have provided new guidance to help with that risk assessment process:

For parents whose children are not in school, the Department for Education has published the guidance and an initial list of resources to support access to high quality remote education during school closures:

Local authorities across England will receive a further £1.6 billion to help them to deal with the immediate impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19). This takes the total funding to support councils to respond to the pandemic to over £3.2 billion. Local authorities are best placed to decide how to meet service pressures in their local area, including within SEND and children’s social care.

We have confirmed that schools and colleges will continue to receive their usual funding, including from the high needs block, to support them through this period of disruption:

We are also providing financial support to schools to meet additional costs arising from Covid-19:

We hope that this letter has been helpful in setting out what we are doing at this time to support children with SEND. At the end of this letter, there are some key resources that may be helpful. Right now, our focus, like yours, is on the current situation and keeping you and your children safe and supported. We know that by working together, we can ensure that children and young people with SEND receive the support they need during this difficult time.

Yours faithfully,

Helen Whately MP
Minister of State for Care

Vicky Ford MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families

Annex – Further key resources
On the GOV.UK website there is a comprehensive set of guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19):

The following links will be of particular interest for the families of children with SEND:

Other support includes:

Support & resources for families from CEAT

An update and some resources from Janet Threader, the Family Liaison Officer for Cheshire East Autism Team 🙂

Hi all,

During these unprecedented and challenging times I just wanted to reassure you that the Cheshire East Autism Team are still here to support parents and carers. I know that many of you will have struggled with the decision of whether or not to send you child into school but can I please reassure you that there is no right or wrong answer you can only do what’s best for you and your family. Whatever you decided it can feel quite overwhelming, I have personally experienced this over the last few days but we will try and do what we can to support you now and in the coming weeks/months.

You have probably have been ‘flooded’ with resources and advice over the last few days and I don’t want to put any additional pressure on you but I felt it was important to send you some ideas and resources especially for those who are keeping their children at home. I intentionally didn’t say ‘educating’ at home as most of us are not teachers we are just doing  the best we can.

Here are some resources that you may find useful:
Tips for home

Support information for parents of children with additional needs.

“Why do I have to?” template, plus example

What is a social story?


The majority of these things relate to not only  ASC children but would be useful for any child with additional needs; in fact I feel that any child would benefit from these at the moment.

We have lots of additional resources on our website which we will be continuously adding to over the next few days and coming weeks.  Below is the website address but you can also search on line for Cheshire East Autism Team.

In addition to this the team can be contacted in the usual way by email:   or phone Tel: 01270 685960 .

If you do e mail into the team then please  be assured that your details will be passed to a relevant  member of the team and we will try our best to answer you as soon as possible. We will continue to work together and provide support for you and your families now and in the future,

On behalf of myself and my colleagues we wish you well and take care,

Kind Regards,  Janet

COVID 19 & SEND – Open Letter to children & young people & their families

Vicky Ford MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of Stage for Children & Families, has issued an open letter to Children & Young People with SEND and their parents, families and others who support them

Click here to view Minister Ford’s open letter to the SEND sector as a PDF

The letter reads:
24 March 2020

Dear colleagues,

This is an open letter distributed through as many of our partner organisations as possible. I would be grateful if you could circulate it as widely as possible to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), their parents/carers and families, and all others who support them.

This is an unprecedented, uncertain and testing time for all of us due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is particularly challenging for children and young people with SEND, their families, and those who work tirelessly to support and care for them.

This is why, over the past week, we have made announcements and issued guidance about how we will meet the needs of children and young people with SEND during this challenging time. As the Minister responsible for SEND, I wanted to write to let you know that we are committed to doing everything possible to support you during this difficult time.

We are working in partnership with many organisations, including the National Network for Parent Carer Forums and the Council for Disabled Children, to make sure we are focusing our efforts in the right places. In all our decisions, the needs of SEND children and young people and their families and carers, and safeguarding these vulnerable groups, are at the forefront of our minds.

The Government published guidance about supporting vulnerable children on 22 March. It includes a number of frequently asked questions and is available at We have also published new guidance that provides household isolation advice for children and young people who live in residential settings, and the staff that support them.
This guidance is available at

The guidance on supporting vulnerable children states that local authorities, nurseries, schools, special schools, colleges and other training providers should undertake a risk assessment to establish the individual needs of each child or young person with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. This assessment should incorporate the views of the child or young person and their parents. This will inform the decision about whether they should continue in school or college, or whether their needs can be met at home safely.

If needs are best met at schools or colleges, we will support their school or college
to meet their needs, wherever possible. For those on SEN support, schools,
colleges and local authorities have discretion to use the same risk judgement to
decide whether home or school is the safest setting for these children. It is,
however, important that as many children as possible remain at home during this
time in order to help reduce transmission rates.

On 19 March, the Government introduced new legislation into Parliament, in the
form of the Coronavirus Bill (‘the Bill’), in response to the outbreak

Our overwhelming aim for SEND, through the Bill and the proposed changes to
regulations that are to follow, is to balance the needs of this vulnerable group to
receive the support they need with managing the demands on local authorities and
health bodies to respond to this outbreak. As a result, we have included in the Bill
temporary emergency powers to enable us, where necessary, to modify the legal
requirements on local authorities in fulfilling their duties in relation to EHC plans.
In practice, this will mean that where a local authority is, because of the outbreak,
unable, for example, to put in place stated provision, they will need to use their
reasonable endeavours to do this, but won’t be penalised for failing to meet the
existing duty as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. These emergency
powers will only be exercised for the shortest period and where necessary, and
will be regularly reviewed. We will also be seeking to amend regulations on the
timescales for EHC plan processes where this is appropriate because of COVID-
19. I want to reiterate that these decisions are not taken lightly but I believe strike
the right balance in these difficult times.

I encourage you to keep up to date by regularly checking the webpages,
and raise awareness of the DfE Coronavirus helpline we have established for local
authorities, providers and parents to get information on the latest Government
advice. The number is 0800 046 8687, and lines are open 8am-6pm (Monday –
Friday), and 10am – 4pm (Saturday and Sunday).

I realise that the impact of these extraordinary circumstances on this group of
children and young people can be particularly acute. This is why I have asked the
Council for Disabled Children, in partnership with Contact, to ensure that their
websites and forums regularly update both families and services on information,
which is available to support them. I have also asked them to collate any questions
and queries from stakeholders so that we can maintain as many routes of contact
as possible into Government to ensure our actions continue to be focused on
prioritising where help is most needed.

The challenges we are now facing serve to further highlight the importance of
ensuring the system of support for children and young people with SEND is as
effective as possible in the future. Rest assured that completing our review of the
SEND system remains a priority for me and for the Government. In light of the
current situation, we will think carefully about the right way and timescale to do
this. Right now my focus, like yours, is on managing the current situation and
keeping vulnerable children safe and supported.

I know that by working together, we can ensure that children and young people
with SEND receive the support they need during this difficult time.

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Ford MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families


Updates from CE SEN team: school closures & SEN team operations

20/03/2020 – PM updated information from CE Council SEND team

Please click here for pdf version of updated information from Cheshire East issued this afternoon 

Dear Parents and Carers
What we know: 
Government have now published guidance for both schools and colleges on maintaining education provision and guidance for parents and carers:
1. Arrangements for next week
All schools and settings have been asked to be open for the normal school day where possible, some may not be able to open due to staffing implications which will not allow for safety and care of children. If possible, the Local Authority will look to broker additional staff to support the school to remain open or offer a place at an alternative school, where it is safe to do so, and the need of children can be met, and there is capacity to do so.
Schools are, therefore, being asked to continue to provide care for children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘cared for children’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
2. Transport
We expect public and school transport to continue as normal. However, we cannot guarantee the same driver as usual as they could be isolating or unwell, but we will look at retain consistency where possible. Transport will be reviewed, and may change, once we are aware of the number of children actually attending schools.
3. Vulnerable pupils
For vulnerable children who have a social worker our assumption is that these children should be attending. If any parents or carers request to keep children at home as they believe they can keep them safe social workers will assess the best option for the child.
4. EHCP Pupils

  • Schools and colleges are advised to make case by case basis assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations of pupils and students on an education, health and care (EHC) plan. For some, they will be safer in an education provision. For others, they will be safer at home.We have requested schools undertake this assessment and provide the local authority with details of the outcome of their assessment and confirmation of whether a place is being provided for each child. It is important to note the school will not be providing a full curriculum, they will be providing care for the children and incorporating education provision and a range of activities, but this will NOT be fully in line with their EHC provision.
  • Children being supported by tutors Where children are being supported by tutors organised the Local Authority, we will provide more information about arrangements, as soon as possible. We will not continue to offer face to face tuition but will look to provide work possibly on line and where possible support by a telephone call.

5. Local Authority ongoing SEND srvice
To support us during these unprecedented times we are requesting that:

  • You do NOT submit new needs assessment requests for EHC plans until we return to business as usual at which point guidance will be issued.
  • Any SEN queries should be emailed to Please do not ring or contact individual workers and keep enquires to urgent matters. Calls will be forwarded to an appropriate member of the service for response and we will aim to respond within 3- 5 working days. Please do not send follow up emails.

In return we will

  • Continue to progress current needs assessment requests where we can obtain appropriate information to support the EHC Plan. However, these will be emailed to you using Egress for comment and return. We will not be undertaking any face to face meetings with children, school staff or parents.
  • We will continue to consult on schools places for September where these have not been agreed, but we may need to provide interim school places and consider change of school requests at a later date if we cannot get responses from schools.
  • We will be asking schools to continue to undertake annual reviews for SEN children but do these differently, especially for children not attending school during this period. Advice/guidance will be issued hopefully next week.

We hope this provides some more practical guidance to support the current arrangement about provision that will be available from Monday. If you have any queries, in the first instance, please discuss arrangements with the school.
In terms of complying with GDPR legislation any communications with parents are likely to be by email and if these are about individual children the Local Authority will send these through Egress.


20/03/2020 – am: We have had the following update from Laura Rogerson (Head of SEN Cheshire East Council) which she has asked us to share with parent / carers in Cheshire East:

We will be sending out regular updates as things progress and we gain more clarity from DfE.  We have been working closely with schools, early years and post 16 settings to support in creating a forward plan for the next few weeks. As most organisations as we have a number of staff not in work and have to prioritise to support the most vulnerable children and families within the borough.  I am sure you will understand our position and work with us over the coming week.

We have sent communication to all schools and settings to clarify children that fall under the vulnerable group (as outlined by the government) and will need to access full time provisions are:

  • Those with a social worker
  • Those who are Child in Need/Child Protection
  • Cared for Children
  • EHCP

Due to these guides we have confirmed with all schools and settings that they need to be open for normal schools hours next week and should expect all children who fall into the categories above to attend.

Due to schools staffing and capacity we explained that full curriculum offers will not be in place in schools, from next week these will be offers of provisions (content of school day will be more flexible and defined by each school but will unlikely be set timetables of core curriculum).  We are seeking further clarity on what would normally fall under legal requirements and statutory obligations with regards to children’s EHCPs.

Some schools are feeding back to us that some parents do not wish for their children to be in school, again we are seeking clarity from DfE regarding attendance requirements of children they have identified to be in school.

We do not currently have a definition of Key Worker from the DfE but we are anticipating that there will be flexibility for local areas to determine some of these roles.  You will need to be mindful organisations may be redeploying some staff to cover Key Worker roles over time, so this is by no means straight forward.

[How the SEN team will operate during this period of time]

To support us during this period of time we are requesting that:

  1. You do NOT submit new needs assessment requests for EHC plans until we return to business as usual at which point guidance will be issued.
  2. Any SEN queries should be emailed to  Please do not ring or contact individual workers and keep enquires to urgent matters.  Calls will be forwarded to an appropriate member of the service for response and we will aim to respond within 3- 5 working days.  Please do not send follow up emails.
  3. Council staff are following Public health England guides and will not be attending face to face meetings,  but can set up video/telephone conference for essential meetings therefore we are asking that all non-essential meetings at this time are postponed and rearranged.
  4. The council needs to ensure GDPR guidelines are adhered to and therefor communication via email to parents will be through egress.

In return we will

  1. Continue to progress current needs assessment requests where we can obtain appropriate information to support the EHC Plan.  However, these will be emailed to you using Egress for comment and return.  We will not be undertaking any face to face meetings with children, school staff or parents.
  2. We will continue to consult on schools places for September where these have not been agreed, but we may need to provide interim school places and consider change of school requests at a later date if we cannot get responses from schools
  3. We are looking at how we can continue to undertake annual reviews for SEN children but do these differently.  Advise/guidance will be issued.

We are aware that services may not be carried out in a code compliant nature, but we are looking to provide the best service possible.

I am sure there will be many additional queries and we will continue to issue updates through Parent Carer Forum, dependant on their ability/capacity to load details on their website, as I am sure you will appreciate, they will have increased childcare priorities.  We will also distribute messages through Cheshire East Information advice and service, again dependent on staffing.  Finally, we will post updates on Cheshire East Website, preferably through SENDING the NEWS and supply updates through schools who should be maintaining regular contact with you.

Thank you again for your understanding and support during these unprecedented  times

Regards Laura

You can also click here to find more information about the government’s guidance for parents and carers, and click here for a statement from IPSEA’s update on COVID-19, school closure and SEN provision

Termly reviews of SEN Support & EHC Plans – paperwork & quick quiz

When a child or young person has Special Educational Needs, their educational setting should work with the child’s parents or the young person themselves to agree the targets and support they’re working towards. These targets can be long term (for example, end of key stage or beyond) or short term (within the school term / year).

Schools and other educational setting should use the SEN Support Plan paperwork to support termly reviews of this implementation plan to ensure the support is working and to make the annual review better. 

SEN support – both long and short-term outcomes are included in the SEN Support Plan (click here for early yearsclick here for school age click here for post 16 paperwork templates)

EHCP plan – long term (end of key stage & beyond) outcomes are set out in the EHC plan, while shorter term targets and supporting provision are included in an Implementation Plan – the same paperwork should be used as for SEN support (click here for early yearsclick here for school age click here for post 16)

Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum has been assured that all settings should  be carrying out these reviews every term – it could be a quick meeting with the TA or class teacher after school, a coffee morning with the SENCO or something more formal as required, but we have also heard from members that these termly reviews are not happening at all for some people

We would love to know what’s going on!  Which children & young people having their support reviewed every term, who who isn’t?   Please tell us more so we can do something to make it better – you can be as specific or as anonymous as you need 🙂

With your permission, we will pass results to the Local Authority Quality Assurance Team so that we can try to work out if there is a problem and if so, where that problem lies.  You can complete this survey entirely anonymously (which is useful for giving a general picture) or more specifically – Please give us as much information as you are happy to – click here to complete the quick quiz

Cheshire East Autism Team – Service update


Cheshire East Autism Team’s Interim Manager, Joan Sherry, has asked us to share a statement she sent to schools in in January 2020, clarifying how CEAT work to support schools to include children and young people with ASC and social communication difficulties.

The statement says:

CEAT’s offer to School from January 2020

CEAT’s way of working with schools to date has been through a number of methods i.e. training, consultations, school visits, parental support etc.  CEAT has recently undergone an in depth review of its service, looking at what is working well and areas for development. There have also been changes to staffing which will have an impact upon our capacity going forward. We have therefore needed to review our offer in order to ensure that we can continue to provide an equitable and effective service to schools. As part of this process, we have taken the opportunity to look at the schools allocated to our specialist teachers, making some changes with a view to providing more continuity of support from primary through to high schools and reducing travel time for the team. (A list of schools and the teachers allocated to them is attached).

The Jan/Feb half term will be a time of transition.  For those schools that will be having a change of specialist teacher, where possible both teachers will attend the first group consultation to allow for a smooth handover. School visits which are already booked will be honoured as far as possible.

Our programme of support and training for parents will continue in its present form.

We will monitor the service over the next few months and will welcome feedback (with regard to both strengths and areas for development).

The CEAT offer will be as follows:

Group consultations

Schools can bring to consultation children or young people they have concerns about who are presenting with social communication difficulties and/or autistic traits.  The student does not have to have a diagnosis of ASC for CEAT to become involved. Each school will continue to have the opportunity to access a group consultation once every half term. We will also be looking at whether it may be possible to split some of the larger consultation groups into smaller groups in order to ensure that all cases can be heard.

The process will remain the same i.e. :-

  • School provide signed parental consent prior to discussion at Consultation
  • School to complete a preparation form detailing strategies already tried and their impact. It should also be clear what specific concerns school wishes to have addressed at consultation. This should be sent to the relevant CEAT specialist teacher prior to the group consultation
  • Following consultation, school will complete the action plan section of the preparation form and return a copy to CEAT and send a copy to parents
  • Strategies to be implemented and recorded in the action plan prior to review at the next group consultation

Advice for EHCP

Requests for advice for EHCPs will continue to be completed where a child or YP is known to CEAT from a school visit (rather than simply through consultation). We may need to have a flexible approach across our service, meaning that we share the workload to keep advice timely (i.e. a visit and advice may be submitted by a team member who is not the school’s usual Specialist Teacher).


Annual Reviews

CEAT Specialist Teachers will attend annual reviews where the child is known to us and there is significant cause for concern e.g. the placement is in danger of breaking down.

Advice to support diagnosis

With our current capacity level, CEAT will provide support for diagnosis only if the child is known to us and they have been seen by a Specialist Teacher.  The most recent CEAT report can then be sent with a supplementary email or short telephone call, but an additional visit will not be possible.  If the child is not known to CEAT, then diagnosticians will need to receive an education report directly from the school. We are in discussions with Health regarding how best we can support diagnosis moving forward.

School visits:

A school visit may be requested if there are still significant concerns about a child or young person despite undergoing at least two cycles of plan, do, review via Group Consultation. In exceptional circumstances a visit could be requested sooner. With the current level of staffing, CEAT will have a limited capacity to offer school visits. We are looking at a probable allocation of either 0, 1 or two half day visits per term per school, depending upon the number of pupils on roll and the level of need. Such a visit could include:

  • Observation of a child/YP in lesson; 1:1 meeting with the child/YP (which may include an informal assessment); report submitted to school to be shared with parents
  • SCERTS observation
  • RAMP – specialist teacher to support school and parents to create a RAMP for a particular child/YP
  • Meeting with SENCO and/or class teacher to discuss one or more children and provide strategies

In addition, where appropriate we may also be able to offer a limited number of visits as follows:

  • CEAT SALT observation and assessment of child/YP, followed by a report with strategies for school to implement (referral via Specialist Teacher and only appropriate where NHS SALT are not involved)
  • Specialist Support Assistant (referral via Specialist Teacher)
    • Support Specialist Teacher to complete Informal Assessment
    • Advice and modelling to TA/Teacher re use of visuals
    • A short, targeted programme of 1:1 support for emotional literacy, self-esteem and self-awareness

Training offer

  • Staff meetings. This could be focussed on a particular child/yp who is causing concern, or on a specific area of ASC (45 – 60 min)
  • TA training – focus on specific techniques and strategies (45 – 60 min)
  • Bespoke training
    • 2 hours £175.00
    • Half day £250.00
    • Full day £500.00
  • 2 Day training
    • £75.00 for maintained school
    • £150.00 for Academies and Free Schools


Your Future! Options and information events for Young People

Thinking Ahead! Planning your future: information events for young people with SEND

Drop in events for all young people with SEND (age 12 years and above) and their families – no need to book!

* Youth Support Service * Education * Social Care * Health services * Activities *  Independent Living * Employment * Healthy Living *

  • Crewe – Thursday 26 March 2020
    Crewe Alexandra Football Club, CW2 6EB
    12.30 – 3.30pm and 5.30 – 7.30pm 
  • Macclesfield – Thursday 2 April 2020
    Macclesfield Town Hall, SK10 1EA
    12.30 – 3.30pm and 5.30 – 7.30pm

Any questions please contact Youth Support Service: 
Crewe –
Telephone: 01270 686923.
Macclesfield –
Telephone: 01625 384320

Meet your locality SEND Team – Parent Carer Coffee mornings

You are invited! Meet your Locality SEND team

Following the recent restructure of the Cheshire East SEND team (click here for more information on the SEND team restructure), we have arranged coffee mornings for parent carers to meet the SEND officers and Locality manager.

Click here for updated contact details for all SEND teams

North locality (Macclesfield, Knutsford, Wilmslow, Poynton)

Central locality (Sandbach, Congleton)

South locality (Crewe, Nantwich)

  • 3 March 2020, 10:30 to 12:30
  • The Lounge, Autism Inclusive – Unit 6, Brierley Business Centre, Crewe, CW1 2AZ


Short Breaks Re-Commissioning: Consultation Survey Results

Recently the Short Breaks Team consulted with parents, young people and short break providers to ask their views and priorities for short breaks. The responses will inform the re-commissioning of providers’ bids to provide short breaks for children & young people with SEND.

You can click here to see the results of those consultations:

Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum has been invited to send a parent representative to participate in the consideration of the short listed bids. We would encourage members’ to contact us with any views or experiences they wish to share with their representatives – please email or call 07794431768

SEND Inspection Revisit – Information for Parent Carers

Following the Local Area SEND Inspection in 2018, Cheshire East SEND Partnership were required to put together a Written Statement of Action, setting out how they will address the key issued that were identified.

The next stage is that the inspectors will be coming back, to carry out a Revisit.  The SEND Partnership will get a call on a Monday to let them know, and the Inspectors’ next call should be to the Parent Carer Forum.

Cheshire East SEND Partnership are expecting to get the call anytime, and once we hear we will let you know, and will keep you updated throughout.

In the meantime, the SEND Partnership have put together a briefing for Parent Carers to explain what will happen and how the inspectors will gather their views and experiences.  Click here for the SEND Revisit Information for Parents as a PDF

About the Local area special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) re-visit
SEND re-visit due soon!

Cheshire East is expecting a SEND re-visit anytime between now and April 2020. This is a short guide so you know what this involves and what to expect.

What is a SEND re-visit?

The purpose of the SEND re-visit is for Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to assess if Cheshire East has made enough progress in addressing the two areas of significant weakness that they identified in the joint local area inspection of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in 2018.  The two areas were:

  • Area 1 – the timeliness, process and quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans
  • Area 2 – the lack of an effective autism spectrum disorder (ASD) pathway and unreasonable waiting times

The inspectors will review how effectively organisations in Cheshire East work together to support children and young people with SEND. In reviewing how well we work together, the inspectors will want to see evidence that we have made sufficient progress in these areas and be assured that we will continue to make further improvements going forward.

What will a SEND re-visit cover?

Cheshire East was required to submit a Written Statement of Action to Ofsted to explain what we would do to address the two areas that were identified in the 2018 SEND inspection. Since this time, members of the 0-25 SEND Partnership and Parent Carer Forum have been working hard to deliver what we said we would do in our Written Statement of Action.

The SEND re-visit will only focus on the progress made in these two areas. It will not review any other elements of support for children and young people with SEND. This means that if you take part in the inspection, inspectors will only ask you about these two areas.

The inspectors will be looking to see what impact our improvements have made to children and young people’s experiences and how our improvements have made a difference to children and young people and their families.

What happens during a re-visit?

The inspectors will contact Cheshire East Council and the Clinical Commissioning Groups on a Monday to announce the SEND re-visit. On this day the inspectors will also inform the Chairperson of the Parent Carer Forum of the re-visit. We will let you know that the inspectors are starting the SEND re-visit through the Parent Carer Forum.

The local area of Cheshire East will then have two weeks (ten working days) before the inspectors arrive on-site. During these two weeks, the local area sends the inspectors information about local services and the progress that has been made against the two areas. They will also work with the inspectors to arrange the timetable for when the inspectors arrive in week 3.

During the second week, the inspectors will invite parents and carers to give their views through an online survey. The survey will be available over five days and will ask for your views on what progress has been made so far in the two areas since the inspection in March 2018, and what difference this has made to you and your family.

The inspectors will arrive on the Monday of week three. On day one of the on-site visit the inspectors will meet with a variety of people. This will include the Parent Carer Forum. On this day the inspectors will also hold an open meeting with parents and carers to discuss what progress has been made in the two areas identified in our Written Statement of Action. Like the survey, this meeting will focus on what changes have been made in these two areas since the previous inspection in 2018, and what difference this has made to you and your family. The inspectors will want to know what is different since the inspection in March 2018, what is better, and how services listen to you and involve you.

On the final day of the re-visit, inspectors will meet with senior leaders of services in Cheshire East and inform them of their findings and whether sufficient progress has been made. At this point the findings cannot be shared as they may still change.

Findings of the re-visit

Following the re-visit, Ofsted and CQC will produce a letter that will inform Cheshire East of their decision as to whether the local area has made sufficient progress against each of the areas in our Written Statement of Action. This letter will be published on the Ofsted website and on the CQC website.

Want to know more?

For more information on the SEND re-visit, please refer to the inspection handbook (part 3).

Further information is also available on the role of the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum.

For information on how we have been developing our services, please see our newsletter ‘SENDing you the news

Key Contacts


Update: “Improving Autism Assessment & Integrated Support for Children & Young People in Cheshire East”

The SEND Partnership has sent us the following update on Autism Assessment Pathways to share with parent carers in Cheshire East – you will see that there was a session in Macclesfield on 21 January and there are two lined up in Crewe where parents can meet representatives from this workstream and ask any questions
As always, CEPCF parent reps would also really like to hear your thoughts so that they can ensure they can represent you – please email call 07794431768 or through the Facebook group

Update for Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum: Improving Autism Assessment and Integrated Support for Children and Young People aged 0-25 Across Cheshire East
(Publication of Integrated Autism Pathways)

As many of you will know we have been working hard to reduce the waiting times for autism assessments for children and young people across Cheshire East and to improve the overall pathway and support available.

We want to update you on some of the improvements we have made to waiting times and the extra support that is now available across Cheshire East and to share with you the Integrated Autism Pathways that have been developed as part of this work.

During our joint area inspection by Ofsted and CQC in March 2018, Inspectors found that waiting times for autism assessment and diagnosis were far too long in some parts of Cheshire East and that there were gaps in the service. This meant that children and young people were not always getting timely access to the services they needed.

By listening to parents, carers, children and young people, along with health, social care, education and local charity experts we have made improvements to the existing services and commissioned some additional services. 

We will be holding a Drop-in sessions at Autism Inclusive on Thursday 6th February, 10am – 12noon and Wednesday 4th March, 6pm- 9pm to provide more information about this improvement journey and to answer your questions.

We have already held a drop-in session at Space 4 Autism, which was really helpful to check our updates against your actual experiences. Feedback from this session is being summarised and we are also looking into some specific issues some people have highlighted.

We know that there is still work to do and more improvements need to be made but we feel that together we have made good progress. Some of the actions we have taken include:

  • An All Age Autism Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) has been written. This helps us to understand the numbers of people affected by autism across Cheshire East and the types of support they may need both now and in the future.  It helps with planning and has informed the new All Age Autism Strategy for Cheshire East, this will be published very soon. 
  • We have invested in our autism assessment services to reduce waiting times in line with the three-month guideline recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). As a result, waiting times for assessment and diagnosis have fallen  despite a large rise in referrals locally.
  • In October 2018 there were 478 children and young people waiting for an autism assessment  in Eastern Cheshire, (where waits were particularly long), with the longest wait being 104 weeks (almost 2 years). By 6th December 2019 there were 29 children and young people waiting longer than 12 weeks and the longest waiting time for assessment was 17 weeks. The longest waiting time from referral to start of a specialist multi-disciplinary autism assessment was 12 weeks by 31st December 2019.  Across the South Cheshire area the average time for an assessment has been between 10-16 weeks.
  • We measure the waiting time for assessment based on the Guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which is from referral to the start of the multidisciplinary assessment.  We know that some children and young people have then waited after the assessment to receive the formal diagnosis and we have recently increased the medical time in the services to improve this wait and overall assessment process.  We are aiming for this to be reduced to a maximum of 4-weeks after the assessment has been completed. We are currently looking into all the cases where families have waited longer than this. We are also doing more work to review the overall waiting time from first appointment to the end of autism assessment and receiving the formal diagnosis to ensure that this overall timeframe is reasonable.
  • There has been recruitment for additional clinical staff to support the multi-disciplinary assessment of autism.  Speech and language therapists specialising in autism are now in post. The Clinical Care Coordination function is being reviewed with the aim of bringing greater consistency across the Cheshire East area.
  • A multi-disciplinary team of healthcare and education experts has been commissioned at East Cheshire NHS Trust on a recurring basis to complete autism assessments for pre-school children (age0 to 4 years) in Eastern Cheshire to ensure there is a consistent offer across Cheshire East. We are currently confirming the referral pathway into this service in response to questions from families.
  • We are offering consistent early intervention support as part of both a family-centred and settings approach with specialist support being offered in all children’s centres, including peer-led groups and workshops through our Early Start Team and seconded Health Visitors.
  • We have worked with local charities to commission additional pre and post diagnosis support and training for parents/ carers of children, young people on the pathway or with a confirmed diagnosis of autism. These community-based programmes offer practical help and strategies on issues such as sleep management, sensory advice, anxiety management and positive behavioural support. The programme in Eastern Cheshire has already supported 120 families and 466 training sessions have been delivered between 9th September and 13th January 2020. We have received very good feedback from people who have attended these courses and we are looking to expand them to offer more support for children, young people and adults living with autism. A similar support programme will commence across the rest of Cheshire East and Vale Royal in February (Northwich and Winsford) and March 2020 (Middlewich and Crewe).
  • We have developed an Integrated Autism Service Specification which is supported by a series of integrated pathways, to ensure that children, young people and their families can access appropriate help and support according to their level of need. These have been based on the Mental Health Child and Family Centred ‘Thrive Multi-agency Framework’. The aim is to ensure that services are working together around the needs of children, young people and families.

Click here for the Integrated Autism Pathways, which include:

  • Getting advice – first concerns/early identification (0-4 years & school age)
  • Getting help – local offer/specialist Autism assessment
  • Getting more help – pre and post-diagnostic support
  • Getting risk support – prevention of crisis/specialist risk support

We hope that this helps to provide you with an update on some of the improvements we have made. 

Cheshire East SEND team: New structure and posts announced for Jan 2020

Jacky Forster has sent us the following update and asked us to share with members

I am pleased to be able to share with you the new structure for the SEN Service and names of workers.

We still have a couple of vacancies but from the beginning of Jan the majority of posts in the structure are now filled.  We have a couple of post awaiting employment checks and will bring in additional agency to cover the couple of remaining posts from the new year.

I will update you as further positions are confirmed.

Changes in Key Manager Posts

You will be aware that Ian Donegani is leaving Cheshire East in January to spend more time with his family.  I would like to thank Ian for the contribution he has made to SEN over the last 4 years.

I have decided to create two Head of Service posts for the next 12 months in order to ensure that we can move the improvement of the service forward with greater pace.

I am delighted to inform you that Laura Rogerson will be stepping up into Head of Service – with responsibility for the Locality Teams with immediate effect.  Details of the other Head of Service will be provided when this is confirmed.

I am also delighted to inform you that we have now appointed to the three Locality Manager Posts

  • Matt Lowe – North
  • Chris Broadhurst – Central
  • Becky Boothroyd – South

Annual Reviews

In addition, I recognise that improvements to Annual Reviews are not progressing at the pace I had hoped.  I have therefore put in place an interim annual review team which will be in place until July, when we will review the ongoing capacity needs of the service.

Hannah Greensmith –  Team Manager supported by additional Key workers and business support.

Transition Arrangements

I am also aware that this is a busy time of year in terms of confirming transition arrangements.  I appreciate that this can be an anxious time for children and families and so I have put additional capacity in to support us in confirming these arrangements and provide time to allow for effective transition to new settings.

I hope this demonstrates the continued commitment to ensure we have the capacity and best skills and experience to further improve the SEN services to our children and families.

Jacky Forster,  Director of Education and Skills

You can click here to see the new structure for the Cheshire East SEN team (Jan 2020)

Max Cards

What is a Max Card?

The Max Card is a discount card for families who have children / young people (aged 0-25) with additional needs. You can see the offers on their website:

How do I get a Max Card?

Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum has bought Max Cards to give to our members as an incentive to join and a thank you for participating in events / discussions / surveys etc.  They do cost us £3 each, so you will understand that numbers are limited to one per household and we ask you to please take care of them

If you are a parent carer to a child / young person (age 0-25) with additional needs and you live in Cheshire East, you can sign up to the members’ mailing list and apply for a free Max Card at the same time.

Click this link to sign up as a member of Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum and request a free Max Card You do need to agree to receive our members’ updates, but there is no further commitment (however if you are interested in volunteering with the Parent Carer Forum you can ask for more info here too – we’d love to hear from you!)

What happens when I have completed this? 

You will start getting members’ updates from the very next one

One of our volunteers will check for new sign ups every week. They will check that you meet all the criteria ( new member, agree to receive emails, child or young person with additional needs, living in Cheshire East….) and send you an email with a link to a (very short!) survey to complete anonymously

This survey will take no more than 3 minutes to complete.

It gives us information about our members that we need in order to apply for the grant that pays for everything we do (including buying Max Cards). We do it separately so that we can comply with GDPR by keeping it anonymous.

Once you have completed the survey we get a notification that you have done it , but not which answers are yours.

The next time our volunteers checks the Max Cards they will look for completed surveys and send you out your Max Card.  *Please remember we are all volunteers, and parent carers ourselves – we will do ourselves to make sure we get the cards to you promptly, but you as you know life can sometimes get in the way – please check junk folders and feel free to send an email to to ask if you’ve been waiting a long time)

What about renewing an expired Max Card?

Max Cards are valid for up to 2 years, so some members may find that their Max Card has expired. Every members’ update email we send has the instructions for requesting a replacement – we cannot generate the email link without sending  a members update, so you may find it quicker to search for a previous update if you need to renew.

If you have lost your card please feel free to get in touch – we know that these things happen. We would ask that you please have a good look and may have to ask you to pay the £3 they cost us if you need more than one replacement.


Services at Monks Coppenhall Children’s Centre (Crewe)

Monks Coppenhall Children’s Centre, in Crewe   (Remer Street, CW1 4LY – call 01270 371240) is running sessions to support families of young children with additional needs.

Sensory room – there is a sensory room at the children’s centre that parents can call and book an hours slot to use the room. Families are welcome to come together but no more than 4 parents at one time due to the size of the room

Little Stars
 – Little stars is a weekly drop in group for parents who have children aged 0-4 with additional needs (no diagnosis is needed). This is a drop in group every Thursday between 1-2.30 so parents are welcome to attend at any time and stay for as long as they like. We have a variety of different activities set up for children including messy play and sensory activities. There is no booking required.

Sensory group – This is a 6 week programme that focusing on different sensory activities each week including messy play, mini spaces and lights and sounds. There will be a structure to the group including sit down time at the beginning and snack time, this is to support parents whose children may struggle with transitioning between activities as visual aids will also be used.
Parents would need to complete a referral form if they would like to attend the group and they are more than welcome to call the centre to speak to Sarah-Louise Sutton and she can fill this in for them.
These groups run term time and once a referral has been completed they will be added to our waiting list


Annual Review proposal – what’s your view?

As you may be aware, Cheshire East SEND team are struggling to make all amendments to EHC Plans suggested as a result of the annual review process.

They are therefore proposing to take a new approach to allow them to concentrate on making the most important changes within a timely manner.

When would the EHC plan be updated after an annual review?

  • When there has been a significant change to the child or young person’s need (this could include additional diagnoses’, change to presentation etc.)
  • At a key stage or phase change
  • When the child or young person starts an additional therapy (such as OT/physio), there are changes to an ongoing therapeutic programme or a discharge
  • Change to type of setting

What will happen at other times?

  • The setting should still carry out the annual review with the parent / young person and submit amendments to the SEND team
  • The SEND team will ensure that the EHC Plan review documentation and the letter explaining that we will make the changes on the next occasion is appended to the EHC Plan and becomes part of the advice listed in section K so that all that receive the EHC Plan are aware to look at the suggested amendments.
  • The SEND team will send a letter to the parents / young person stating that they have decided not to amend the plan
  • This letter will give parents / young people the Right of Appeal should they wish to challenge the decision

What if the parent / young person feels the EHC plan needs to be fully amended 

The SEND manager has said “Although this is what we would see as how we usually operate, if a parent carer had a specific reason why they wanted a change made we would be happy to discuss this further. “

This approach may only be a short-term measure until the new SEND staff are in place.

What do you think? 
Please email with your thoughts and any questions. We’ll pass them on and share the answers


Cheshire East Early Help Strategy

Cheshire East has updated their Early Help Strategy for 2019 – 2022

Early help is:
Intervening early and as soon as possible to tackle problems emerging for children, young people and their families, or with a population most at risk of developing problems. Effective intervention is a process and may occur at any point in a child or young person’s life.
Services offering early help are not just aimed at preventing abuse or neglect but at improving the life chances of children and young people as a whole this support can be around a wide range of issues, social and emotional skills, communication, the ability to manage your own behaviour and mental health mean a stronger foundation for learning at school, an easier transition into adulthood, better job prospects, healthier relationships and improved mental and physical health.

Click here to see the strategy in full 3. Early help strategy 2019-22 Final 1.7.19

SEND Partnership update, PCF update and feedback


On Tuesday 11 June Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum invited parents and professionals working in SEND services to come together for a coffee morning so that people could share information and chat.

We started with an update from Mandy Dickson, Chair of Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum explaining what CEPCF does, what we have worked on in the last year and what we have planned for next year
Click here to see the PCF update

Jacky Forster, Chair of the SEND Partnership Board then shared an update on what progress has been made in the SEND Partnership
Click here to view update on SEND Partnership Board from Jacky Forster

We then sat down with coffees, teas (and some very good cakes!)

Parents were able to book ten minute appointment slots with some of the professionals attending, or to chat more generally with each other, with the PCF, CEIAS and the other professionals.

It was a trial run, and the feedback was really positive: Parents said “I’m really pleased I came” “Very useful, thank you” [What worked well?] “Everything! Great format!” and the important feedback “lovely cakes!”

We got some great suggestions and ideas on how to make the next one even better, and we were delighted that 100% of those who replied told us that if we run another parent & professional coffee morning they’d come so watch this space for the next one 🙂


Volunteering with the Parent Carer Forum

Have you ever thought about volunteering with the PCF?

Steering group, parent representatives, promotions, signposting, events planning and more behind the scenes – all our volunteers are parent carers too, so we know that these responsibilities always come first.

It’s a great way to use your experience to try to improve services for children & young people with special needs in Cheshire East (and their families). You’ll find out more about what’s happening and meet and support other parents.

Click this link to find out more about all the different ways, times and places you can volunteer with Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum

EHCP survey for children & young people

Cheshire East Youth Support Service would like to hear about children & young people’s experience of Education Health Care Plans

The survey is for children and young people who have (or used to have) an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) so that they can tell Cheshire East about the impact the EHCP has had on them and their lives.

If your child or young person would like to share their views please click here for the Cheshire East Children and Young People’s EHCP Survey

Coffee morning & AGM: Listening to you

Tuesday 11 June, 10am to 1pm at Holmes Chapel Community Centre

We have decided to try something new for our AGM this year; rather than having a topic and speakers, we are going to try something much less formal.

We have invited representatives from the services our families use (Cheshire East SEND, short breaks, commissioning, CEIAS, NHS, charities and more) to come along and meet the members of Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum.

We’d like it to be a constructive event: we all need to “tell it like it is”, but we also need to recognise we can’t change what’s has happened and to focus our energy on what can be done to make it better.

Please join us for tea / coffee, cake and the opportunity to talk with professionals from the LA and health about the issues affecting our families as parents of children & young people with additional needs in Cheshire East. 


Members’ questions & comments: response from Cheshire East

In March the Parent Carer Forum held an open Forum for Cheshire East Council SEND team to share the work that has been done to improve the process, timeliness and quality of Education Health and Care Plans.

While a lot of the work that has been done so far has concentrated on improving new needs assessment requests, many of the parents who came had questions and comments about the experience of children and young people who were already in the process of a needs assessment or had an Education Health Care Plan in place.  Due to the volume of these questions and comments we agreed that it would be best to collect them all and pass them to the SEND Partnership to reply fully.

We have now received a reply from Jacky Forster, the Chair of the SEND Partnership.

You can click here to read Jacky Forster’s reply

As Jacky says in her letter, she is happy to come along to future events, and she will be attending our Annual General Meeting on 11 June 2019.

Preparing for Adulthood Information Pack – feedback please

Cheshire East is producing a Transition Pack for young people.

It contains lots of information about transition / preparing for adulthood – the intention is to give a physical copy of the pack to young people, and they can add / remove pages to personalise and make it more relevant to them

They have asked us to invite parents and young people to look over the document and give them any feedback.

Click here to see the draft Transition Pack

Please email any comments / suggestions / other feedback to

The deadline for feedback is 23 May 2019 

ASC Service Specification – final draft for feedback

For review by Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum steering group in advance of the steering group meeting on 14/05/2019

WSB ASC Integrated Service Specification Final Draft 03.04.19

This document is the final draft of the service specification that has been drawn up by Workstream B, in response to the Ofsted / CQC inspection & resultant Written Statement of Action.

Since it was written they have received the following feedback / comments that have yet to be included in the document:

Comments received and incorporated from:

  • Dr Lesley Bayliss, Clinical Lead (Women & Children at ECCCG)
  • Dr Nichola Bishop, Clinical Lead (Women & Children at SCVRCCG)
  • Andy Mills, Senior Commissioning Manager, Adult Social Care and Health/ Interim PSTP Preventing Poor Mental Health Prog Lead 
  • Cheryl Knupfer, Stockport Autism Team/Cheshire East Council
  • Jo Vitta, Commissioning Manager SCVRCCG
  • Jamaila Tausif, Associate Director SCVRCCG
  • Jacky Forster, Director Cheshire East Council
  • Nicola West, Principal Educational Psychologist and Teaching Teams Manager, Cheshire East Council
  • Dave Leadbetter, Head of Children’s Commissioning, Cheshire East Council
  • Penny Hughes, DCO Eastern and South Cheshire CCGs
  • Gill Tyler, DCO Vale Royal CCG
  • Ian Donegani, Head of SEND, Cheshire East Council

Other general comments that have not yet been included:

  • Let’s give it a snappy title East Cheshire Integrates Autism Service (ECIAS)
  • Include something about Safeguarding procedures in Standards
  • I think we need to discuss this age range to reconcile NICE guidance and LA requirements
  • The spec should be 0-25 years
  • What about social care – not sure we have considered a SW in the pathway
  • We need co-training with parents
  • Important to mention training workforces and Cheshire East as a community as suggested in the strategy
  • Reference to care planning (not only social care) but about anyone in a position to provide care (support) to family/person.
  • Really good, especially when looked at with the pre and post pathways and looks like a functioning ‘system’
  • A consistent approach is needed throughout key transitions from early years to primary, secondary and post 16 with flexibility around setting
  • Positive behaviour therapy should not be ABA
  • Include more on the co-production work with PCF and including the future work planned directly with young people
  • Should we specify that all parents receive Cygnet training post diagnosis?
  • Is there a TOMS type model that can be applied to autism?
  • Can we apply risk matrix type approach adopted by SALT

Big list of links discussed at the EHCP Open Forum 8/3/19


Thanks again for coming on Friday

This is a very quick follow up with some of the links that were discussed on the day

Q&A to follow (I still haven’t finished typing up the questions, let along started getting the answers, but I will get this back to you as soon as I am able)

Best wishes


Home Education and SEND – information morning

We know that some of our members choose to home educate their children and young people with special educational needs because that works best for them and for their families.  We also know that some others home educate because they feel they don’t have any other option, and many more have told us that they fear they may have to if they cannot find a school or college place that works for their child or young person.

We invited speakers to come and share their expertise and experiences in this area with our members: Karen Lynch from Cheshire East Information Advice & Support (CEIAS),  John Fowler (Elective Home Education for Cheshire East), Nikki (a parent who is home educating her son) and Steph – a young person with additional needs who was home educated.

Our panel of experts

Karen Lynch talked about what CEIAS can do to support parents and young people when their school or college placement isn’t working as they’d like – you can click here to see her presentation, and click here for more information on CEIAS including how to contact them

John Fowler shared some facts and pointed out some common misunderstandings about elective home education.

Nikki Greenford is a parent who home educates her son. They decided to try home education having exhausted all other options. They started with a very structured routine but now follow a more active and outdoor approach including conservation, volunteering and working towards his Duke of Edinburgh’s award. They go to activities put on by the National Trust, Cheshire East Countryside rangers and other organisations, which are usually shared through the Home Education Facebook group.

She explained that it is a unique journey for each individual family. There are some real downsides: there is no break, all responsibility is on you, so if you don’t do it it doesn’t get done, and it can have a real impact on financial and domestic arrangements; in Nikki’s case she has stopped work completely while her partner works away for 5 days a week.

it’s a big decision, but not one she regrets at all – her son is very happy and is thriving.

Steph is a young person who was home educated and is now at university. She spoke to our members about her experience of being home educated and how this has affected her. You can see Steph’s presentation here:
My home education journey My Home Education Journey.

We then opened the discussion for questions – you can see the Q&A here:
20181019 Home Q & A

Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum would like, once again, to thank all those who took part for sharing their experiences and expertise. If you have any questions that were not raised that you would like us to ask our panel, please email & we will pass it on.

Transport – TSS & CEC response

In September 2018 Cheshire East & Transport Service Solutions invited parent carers to a meeting to discuss the issues experienced with agreeing and communicating home to school / college transport arrangements for children and young people with SEND around the beginning of the academic year.

Following this meeting, they have asked us to share this response:


TSS & CEC PCF Meeting Response Sept 18 (Full transcript at the bottom of this page)

They also attended our November steering group meeting, and agreed to invite a parent representative to work with TSS & CEC to agree processes and to get clear information on the Live Well website that will state clearly:

  • timescales & process – how / when to apply, what will happen by when
  • who parents should contact with questions or concerns about the transport arrangements that have been proposed
  • one-page profiles: how parents and young people can flag their individual needs
  • what should be done if there is a change – how TSS will keep parents informed, as well as who parents need to notify of any changes and who to do that



This document details the main issues raised by PCF during the meeting with CEC & TSS representatives together with the responses and resulting actions.

Awareness of policy changes
The timing of reminder mailshots and texts was explained together with the detailed presentation given to PCF on 12 June. The main impact would have only been for post-16 pupils because of the transition arrangements agreed for existing pre-16 students in receipt of transport.

Is there a breach of regulations when the parental contribution means that parents are paying more
that if they had opted to use college bus services when available?
This had previously been reported at a PCF meeting and the transport officer is investigating how this can be rectified if it is an issue

Poor communications between CEC/SEND and TSS
The new process was explained but it was apparent that some improvement in information exchange was needed. This would be reviewed along with other processes introduced this year and any changes implemented as soon as possible so as not to impact on transport provision next year.

Poor communications between TSS/ CEC and parents including lack of information about operators and PAs
It was accepted that this needed to be improved with the ideal situation being transport arrangements being notified to parents by the end of July. Work will be undertaken to ensure adequate time is allowed for route planning to allow this to take place.

Phone calls not returned
This was accepted and had partly resulted from the increased volume of calls being received. In the case of TSS this was dealt with by introducing a call triage arrangements had been put in place by TSS when they became aware that this was an issue.
CEC and TSS will look to revise the TAAP process for post 16 applications including scheduling meeting dates in advance.

Last minute changes of operators and/or drivers
These are partly caused by last minute refusal of tenders by operators and delays in processing of request actions taken in. Pulling the whole process forward should alleviate some of these issues.

Journey times too long
Journeys are planned to be within the published guidance times where this is possible given the distance being travelled. In some cases generous journey times have been quoted initially to ensure punctual arrivals. These are usually reviewed within a few days once traffic conditions are assessed.

Stress caused to parents
This was agreed as totally unacceptable and an apology given

Planning needs to be done earlier (esp. Yr11)
This was agreed and CEC and TSS will be reviewing the timescales shortly with a revised plan for 2019/20 school year planning.

Why have some post-16 students been charged and some not when the circumstances are identical?This should not have happened and all cases will be cross-checked to ensure that the policy was applied correctly

Potential for using online reviews (both good & bad) as part of the tender judgement?
Negative and often anonymous reviews would not form a reliable basis for tendering judgements. However it was agreed that comments from parents could be logged and used to inform future tendering rounds

Why do contracts with the same operator not continue year on year thus giving stability
Where possible, contracts are awarded for the duration of an individual’s attendance at a particular school. However changes do sometimes need to be made when other pupils move or new children from similar areas come on stream and shared transport arrangements have to be reassessed. In some cases operators no longer wish to operate a contract so give notice to terminate and a new provider is needed.

How is medical training for PAs checked?
Our specialised transport officer is made aware when we are awarding a new contract for a child who needs a trained PA, if the PA has not already received training via us through a hospital we will contact the nurse for available dates. We keep a list of PA’s who have received the training. If a PA claims to have received the training but we don’t hold a record of this then we can check with our contact at the hospital to see if they have done the training.

Parents don’t know the best point of contact for a range of travel issues
It was agreed that this does need to be clarified. We will explore the possibility of producing a quick reference guide to be sent to each parent giving the correct contact points for different circumstances.

Concern about reporting safeguarding issues (e.g. driver slapping pupil)
This was accepted as a potentially serious issue. We will explore the possibility of establishing an online reporting system to ensure that full details are accurately recorded and acted upon quickly.

PCF Steering Group Meeting – October headlines

Headlines from the parent carer forum steering group 09/10/2018:

  • Cheshire East SEND team will be contacting all parents of children on EHC plans as part of their plan to improve the quality of EHCP s after the Ofsted review.
    They will also be asking external peer reviewers to assess the quality of plans in Cheshire east.
    Click here to see IPSEA’s guidance on what an EHCP should contain, and a link to their EHCP checklist
  • CEIAS are planning to review how they reach out to families or groups who don t access their service at the moment but need their support or advice.
  • The parent carer forum is still feeding back the on going difficulties with transport and requesting meeting times. 
  • The group also heard presentations about a new framework about preparing for adulthood that could be used to help everyone start thinking about this as early as possible
  • High Peak school – a residential school for children and young people with various Special educational needs that has accepted children referred by Cheshire East.

Family Fund

We have been contacted by Family Fund, who have asked us to share some information about what they do

Family Fund is the UK’s largest charity providing grants for families raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people. Their grants help break down some of the many barriers faced by families raising a disabled or seriously ill child, and cover a variety of things that may be of benefit, such as household items, family breaks and specialist equipment.

Find out more at, call us on 01904 550055, email us at or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

To learn more about how our grants help families, read Amy’s Story below –

Case Study

Amy is 17 years old, and lives in Cheshire. She has Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and has been awarded multiple grants from Family Fund since her mum’s initial application in 2004.

“We heard about Family Fund a long time ago now, when Amy was only small,” says her mum, Claire. “We used to take her to a place at the infirmary called the Mary Sheridan Centre, and one of the members of staff there mentioned it to us.”

“Amy has autism. She is non-verbal, and is still in nappies, which impacts various parts of our lives. Even though she is non-verbal, she understands everything that you tell her, and she is very intelligent. So we just have to make sure we are constantly telling her what we are doing.”

“She is going to college at the moment, which has been great for her, but she is still very routine-based. If anything unexpected happens, she doesn’t take it very well.”

“Over the years we have received several things from Family Fund. We have had a washer, a fridge-freezer… then more recently the iPad. I think the first thing I applied for was the washer dryer, which we needed because Amy needs a lot of changes of clothes during the day.”

“Another year I applied for bedding for Amy. That meant she could stay at my mum’s house and I could have a little break. I remember that being really helpful at the time.”

“We definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford any of the items ourselves. We have got limited family who we could have asked for help, and so we probably would have had to do it through loans or credit cards, which I obviously did not want to do because we would struggle to pay them back.”

“Family Fund has been an absolutely tremendous help with everything that we have had and been through. I am just so thankful that they exist.”

Cheshire East SEN Team – timescales & communications

A high number of parent members have told us that they have had problems getting in contact with the SEN team, and with the timescales of annual reviews.

We raised these issues with Tracey Beardmore-Evans, who is the SEND Service Manager for Cheshire East, and she asked us to share this statement:

“We regret to inform you that we are currently in a position where we have a backlog of annual review returns, for which we would like to apologise sincerely. This has occurred due to staff sickness. We are currently in the process of identifying a team of skilled and experienced plan writers to enable us to respond as quickly as possible

 “We are also dealing with a very high level of incoming work at this current point in time, and the issues around sickness are impacting our ability to offer the quick response and level of service that we aspire to provide. We have had an experienced member of the team move on to other opportunities recently and another two members of staff are due to move on in the next few months. We are taking immediate steps to try and limit the impact that this has but we would appreciate your patience and understanding whilst we appoint new team members”.

She also asked us to tell parents that if they were having any problems getting in touch with an individual members of staff, then they can call 01625 378042 or forward their emails to

Quick quiz! Live Well

Cheshire East have asked the Parent Carer Forum to ask our members for some feedback and suggestions on their Local Offer website.
The Local Offer is a Local Authority’s publication of all the 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.” (Section 4.1 SEND Code of Practice, January 2015)

Transport – have your say

We are aware that many of our members have had a really bad experience with their child or young person’s SEND home to school / college transport this year.

We have spoken to Cheshire East & TSS to raise the issues, and ask them to confirm what the process should be, what has gone wrong and how they will make sure it doesn’t happen again next year.

Ian Donegani (Head of Service, SEND & Inclusion at Cheshire East) replied to say he would like to meet directly with parents to hear about the issues they have experienced, and would invite representative from TSS (Transport Solution Services) to also come along to listen and answer questions.

The first of these meetings is on Friday 21 September, at 10:30am in Sandbach: if you would like to attend please email or call 07794431768

We are hoping to hold more meetings so that as many people as possible can attend and have their voice heard – if you would be interested please email to let us know what areas / times of day you could attend.

If you cannot get to a meeting in person you can still have your say click here to open our quick quiz survey on SEND Transport to school / college

Summer Partnership Picnic – 21st June 2018 (Congleton)

Children & young people with SEND, and their families are invited to a summer picnic!

Come along for some after school / college fun – a picnic, some fun activities and the chance to have your say on how you would like to work with the local authority SEND team, social services and health services.

It’s at Congleton Town Hall on 21 June 2018, from 4.15pm – click here to book your place

Mental Health: presentations from our AGM

We were very lucky to welcome a great line up of speakers and stalls at our AGM on 8 May 2018

We have had requests from attendees for more information, as well as from members who couldn’t make it on the day, so we are pleased to share the slides and contact details

  • Carrying heartache: a presentation on being a parent carer, and how that experience gives a professional a different insight
    Chris Jaydeokar (co-Chair of CEPCF) Carrying sadness presentation slides
  • Cheshire East Council SEND transformations developments update
    Ian Donegani (Head of Service for SEND and Inclusion Cheshire East Council) SEND update presentation
  • Mental Health Pathways – developments in Cheshire East
    Graham Dyson: Mental Health Commissioning -NHS South Cheshire, Vale Royal CCG
    Shelley Brough Head of integrated commissioning
    Dave Ledbetter Head of Children’s commissioning
    Hayley Burnham Senior Contracts officer Cheshire East Council Commissioners presentation
    Matthew Howard Clinical Director CAMHS CAMHS slides
    Trish MacCormack General Manager Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

  • Presentation on autism
    Barney Payne CAMHS LD community Nurse CWP

  • Mindfulness workshop
    Dr Ceri Woodrow Clinical Psychologist CWP
    Adapted Mindfulness May 2018

SEND Youth Forum

If you know someone aged 11 – 25 who has SEND and would like to get involved in the services they use please pass this on. Next meeting will on Monday 30 April, and they will be looking at what issues are important to young people in the local area and making a plan of action.

(They are also looking to set up meetings in Macclesfield – we’ll let you know once we have more information)

Stay & Play (Stockport)

STAY AND PLAY SESSION – for parents and carers with a child between 6 months and four years with complex needs

Every Wednesday morning parents and carers come along to have a good time together while supporting their child’s learning through play.
Our activities can help improve the development of skills in communication, early exploration and movement, as well as increasing your child’s confidence and independence. Having time and space to play in this way gives children the chance to meet and have fun with others, getting involved in activities you can also try at home.
We know how demanding caring for your child with complex needs can be and Stay and Play is great for Parents and Carers too. Our friendly group is a chance to meet others, share experiences and build lasting friendships and support.
Seashell Trust Stay and Play is for babies and young children aged between 6 months and four years with a severe profound learning disability and: a significant visual impairment and / or visual processing problems and / or moderate to profound hearing loss or loss of auditory processing mechanisms

Stay and Play is completely FREE but we do ask that you contact us before attending your first session to book your place. Please call 0161 610 0741 or email

Ofsted & CQC SEND Inspection: Webinar for parents

All parents and carers of children or young people (age 0 – 25) who have any SEN (whether they have an EHCP or not) are invited to take part in a webinar with the Inspectors on Thursday 8 March, from 1.30 – 2.30 pm. 

Click this link to register to take part in this webinar


Several parents have contacted as they do not know what a webinar is or how it works, so we’d like to share some more information. 

What do I need to take part in the webinar?
You will need a computer, mobile or tablet so that you can get online and see the webinar

You will need to be able to hear the webinar. You can do this from your device, or alternatively, there is a phone number you can ring so you can hear it as a phone call.

You need to be available to take part for about half an hour from 1:30 pm on Thursday 8 March. As it is online, you can do it from wherever you are, just so long as you have internet access.

How do I get set up?
Click this link to register for the Cheshire East SEND Inspection Parents Webinar.
You will be asked for your email address, so they can send you the full instructions, including an email address so you can contact them to ask any questions you may have beforehand.

These instructions contain a link you can click that will check your laptop or device will work before the webinar starts. 

The instructions also include another link for you to click on on Thursday to take part.

What will happen during the webinar?

During the webinar, the inspectors can’t see us, but we’ll see the questions they ask (on your computer, smart phone or tablet) and hear these being asked.

We don’t need to speak, we just click our answer and type in our comments or questions.

All information gathered will be anonymised.

It is likely to last around half an hour only, so try to join in promptly

Cheshire East’s Post 16 Travel Policy Statement for 2018/19 consultation

Notice from Cheshire East Council:
We are writing to advise you that the consultation on the Post 16 Travel Policy Statement for 2018/19 is now open and will close at 5pm on Friday 6th April.

Following consideration of the updated guidance entitled Post-16 transport to education and training from the Department of Education dated October 2017, changes made to other Education Travel policies, and input from Post 16 providers at the workshop in November, the Post 16 Policy Statement has been updated for the academic year starting 1st September 2018.

The final version, once approved, will be published on the Council’s website by 31st May 2018.

The policy statement provides information for Cheshire East students and their parents about the travel assistance available to them when continuing in education or training beyond compulsory school age .  It relates to Post 16 learners who are

  • aged 16-18 years of age including those with special educational needs and disabilities
  • aged 19 years of age including those with special educational needs and disabilities who started a course before their 19th birthday and who continue to attend that course
  • Adults under 25 years of age, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, with or without an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) who wish to attend an educational course.

Please note that there are some key changes between the proposals for 2018/19 and the current travel provision and I would encourage you to read the Policy Statement and supporting information.

To access the consultation and supporting information:

Key Stage 4 (Year 10 and 11) and Key Stage 5 (sixth form) learners and their parents/carers are invited to participate in the consultation.

Volunteer opportunities: We need you!


What do PCF volunteers do?

It can be a regular commitment (as a parent representative working with the Local Authority on areas like SEN, social care or short breaks) or a one off short term project (as a parent representative looking at a particular project or task like assessing bids for commissioning or job applicants for key SEN roles), joining our steering group to help behind the scenes, or simply agreeing to read over documents with a parents-eye-view from the comfort of your sofa.


It is very rewarding – our volunteers have found it a good way to put their experience & expertise to good use, and to feel like we are making a difference in areas that matter so much to our families.

 We can’t pay you for your time, but we will cover any travel or childcare expenses

How do I know what to do…?

We offer some training and lots of support  – it has been a great way to get some skills and experience for cv while caring commitments might stop us taking on other employment, and it’s a good way to gain (or regain) a bit of confidence and use it!

We try to send parent representatives in pairs whenever possible (and always for your first few meetings!) so you have some back up and a chance to see what happens

What if I can’t make a commitment?

We are all parent carers ourselves, so we understand that our families are our priorities and there will be times when they have to we have to drop out.

Tell me more…..?

We’re holding an event for you to come along and find out more – no commitment! Click here for full info on the volunteer information lunch

If you can’t make it to the event that’s fine – just give us a call or email and we’ll catch up for a chat

CASCAIDr – The Centre for Adults’ Social Care – Advice, Information and Dispute Resolution

What is CASCAIDr?

CASCAIDr is a new national advice charity, providing specialist legal advice about everyone’s rights to have their needs for care and support decided lawfully, reasonably and fairly.

Click here to visit the CASCAIDr website

What does its name stand for?

The Centre for Adults’ Social Care – Advice, Information and Dispute Resolution

What is its aim?

To reinvigorate the rule of law within local government and that part of the NHS responsible for commissioning care and support packages for those with complex health needs.

We aim to empower and support people, their carers and practitioners to resolve disagreements about access to services – and, in doing so, ensure that those suffering disability or an impairment are not needlessly dragged into poverty or despair.


Why is it needed?

Whilst there is a growing understanding of the impact that austerity measures have had on social and health care provision, few are aware of the complexity of legal duties, powers and responsibilities owed to our most vulnerable members of society.

Most people only seek support or come to rely on social care services and funding in times of crisis.

Family members and carers, exhausted by providing dedicated care, rarely have the energy required to navigate referral processes or complaints procedures to secure fair processes and lawful packages of care.

As none of us can know our own future, we all need public sector decision-making to be properly governed by the law and sound legal principles.


What sort of problems will CASCAIDr be taking on?

Access to funded advocacy rights;  whether assessments are compliant with the law; whether councils are following the statutory Guidance; rights to funds for sufficient levels of care to avoid support needs escalating or sacrificing carers’ wellbeing; the legality of cuts to care plans.


How will CASCAIDr do this?

By providing free and outcome-focused advice and a checklist and a pre action protocol letter to individuals with problems that are within our ‘free scope’ list.

CASCAIDr will also provide chargeable but low-cost advice on a wider range of problems, to those needing support in relation to submitting complaints and accessing other remedies.


What has crowdfunding have to do with CASCAID’s strategy?

Where issues can’t be resolved through dialogue and a barrister has given a positive opinion on the merits of the case, CASCAIDr may support crowdfunding to secure legal challenges. This not only strengthens an individual’s position, but also supports widespread lawful decision-making by clarifying any areas of uncertainty in the current legal framework.

What sort of people will CASCAIDr help?

Individuals – service users, carers, relatives, brokers, advocates, appointees, attorneys, deputies. Charitable Organisations – providers of care and support, and advocacy organisations with charitable status…

What about non-charitable organisations? Can they get help from CASCAIDr too?

Non-charitable organisations and individuals seeking advice outside CASCAIDr’s charitable scope can source chargeable but affordable advice from CASCAIDr Trading Ltd. All profits of that company will directly fund the provision of free legal advice through the charity’s work.

What does CASCAIDr’s service include?

  • A telephone helpline – 4 days a week – for a booked half hour free ‘steer’ for people who are not sure if they’ve even got a legal problem
  • A referral form for people to fill in online
  • Volunteers to help people to express all the relevant detail of their predicament, if they are struggling
  • Expert advisers who will produce the checklist and letters that are the free output
  • Support and guidance for those who want to crowdfund to bring formal legal proceedings.

What can people expect?

CASCAIDr advisers will:

  • Analyse a situation for omissions to comply with the Care Act or public law principles
  • Give the client a checklist to take back to the council/CCG
  • Write a letter in the form of a pre-action protocol letter, setting out what’s not been done correctly
  • Seek advice on the client’s behalf, from a direct access barrister
  • Consider helping the client crowdfund so that council or CCG knows that the client can, if required, challenge unlawful decisions in Court.

Is there anything that CASCAIDr won’t do?

We won’t

…act as a gun for hire: we care about our credibility and we won’t put forward a case just because you’d like us to, or would pay us money to do so – we care about the coherence of the legal framework, and aspire to supporting the achievement of a sustainable social care system;

…take your matter on, if it’s not within our advisers’ expertise – on which our judgement must be respected as final;

…act for both sides to a dispute, unless specifically asked, by both sides, to mediate with regard to the legal strengths and weaknesses of the parties, based on an agreed statement of facts.


Does CASCAIDr offer training on the legal framework?

We’ll be offering affordable training, too, in the form of webinars and lectures for universities, charitable providers and advocacy organisations.

Any organisation that is not charitable will be able to purchase the same services from CASCAIDr TRADING Ltd, our trading subsidiary, albeit at a slightly higher rate – with all net profits going back to the Charity.

Both organisations will be run on a shoe-string – no employees, just self-employed advisers and volunteers. We will have some expenses, obviously, but aim to be one of the lowest cost advice charities around.

Where will all the money come from?

Members of the public, organisations such as care providers, housing associations and, large foundations interested in social justice.

All donations attract GiftAid or will be tax deductible for corporate bodies, because we are a registered charity.

We want “Collaborating with CASCAIDr, to uphold legal rights’ to be a badge of pride, one day, for sophisticated health and social care businesses!

Are there people who’ve already benefited from CASCAIDr’s support?

Yes. We already have the stories and some photos for this range of happy beneficiaries

  • service users who were told that they could only expect the cost of a service that no other reasonable authority could have thought of as suitable;


  • clients who have been able to win back services for their psychological and emotional wellbeing;


  • young people evicted from care homes simply because their relatives made complaints, restored to secure status and supported to move on, after proper planning;


  • carers who have been supported to pull back from levels of care that were killing them, once proper services were obtained for their loved one;


  • parents of severely disabled people, supported to fight cuts that had been suggested without any rational reason, other than austerity;


  • clients who’ve been denied CHCs,


  • businesses whose clients have been supported to dispute illicit top-ups


  • clients who’ve been helped to fight illicit charges levied outside the Care Act rules


  • a client helped to remain in his mother’s home because of having given up his own accommodation to help care for her


  • a man who was supported to explain why he would not be moving his mother from her care home, or paying any more top-ups, since the council’s documentation was not compliant with the legislation.


Ways to share in our journey:

Visit our website catch up on some of our early good news stories, where our advisers have already changed people’s lives, by use of legal principle.

Get on Social Media!

  • Twitter: @CASCAIDr – please follow us here
    • Mention/Tweet about @CASCAIDr – for hashtags we’re going to be using #socialcare, #CASCAIDr, #isitok, #carecrisis and #LovingLegalLiteracy
    • PLEASE re-tweet our fundraising ‘call to action’ Tweets 4-15 December
    • View or subscribe to our lists on @CASCAIDr
  • Facebook – CASCAIDr’s organisation page, click here to view
    • from that page, please like, comment on and share CASCAIDr posts …
  • LinkedIn – look up Belinda Schwehr and connect here
    • you may also like to join the special interest group Adult Social Care Legal Developments – click here to view

Want to volunteer? Click here

Want to advise? Click here

How to Donate –

  • Please, please DONATE ( charges only 15p for the card transaction, or 65p for a credit card…)
  • All individuals’ donations will ultimately attract GiftAid, when HMRC gives us a certificate!
  • We get 25% extra if you eventually complete our GiftAid declaration, so that’s massive!
  • If you’re a higher rate tax payer, and you give us £8, we’ll get £10 and you’ll get £2 back! So for £6 from you, we get £10! How great is that?
  • All corporate donations are tax deductible, as we are a registered charity.

Help us fundraise

  • You can set up your own fundraising sub-page on, if you’d enjoy doing ANYthing that will raise funds and awareness! You need to register in person on that link and then it will set you up with a sub-page, linked to CASCAIDr’s bank account. Tell us!
  • You could start a collection at your workplace or pass on this document link to interested colleagues.
  • You can send this Twitter Moment (here) on to contacts on WhatsApp, for free, once you’ve opened the link to the Moment on your phone.

Get in touch?

Telephone 01252 560 856 or email or

EHIPs & Short Breaks questions: response from Cheshire East Short Breaks Team

We have received the following response to our members’ questions from from Keith Martin and the Children with Disabilities Short Breaks Team.  We will contact all members with details once we hear about future briefing events.  

Remember, if you need to contact the team you can do so by calling 01625 378083 or sending an email to

Q: What is EHIPS?
Please can we have a description / definition – is it for the benefit cared for and / or carer? 

Early Help Individual Payments (EHIP’s) form part of the Local Authorities Short Break Support for Parent Carers of Disabled Children.  The second part of the Short Break Support is the commissioned services that provide activities and clubs.

An EHIP is an annual payment of up to £1,000 for parent carers of disabled children under the age of 18 to purchase support for themselves that would enable them to take a break from their caring responsibility.  The payment is for the parent carer, however the support that is purchased should be meaningful for their child.

Q: Who is eligible?
What criteria are applied – does it remain unchanged while CCiL are managing? If so please state clearly what current criteria are and what they will be from transfer

If a child is receiving High Rate Disability Living Allowance (DLA), either care and or mobility component or a young person aged 16 or 17 is receiving Personal Independence Payment  (PIP) either care and or mobility component then the parent carer is eligible for an EHIP’s.  We use DLA and PIP as our eligibility criteria as this is a way of us determining that the child has a disability without having to undergo an assessment.  Although we use Department of Works and Pensions (DLA and PIP) as our eligibility, EHIP’s are not part of the Benefit System, they are solely administered as part of our Short Breaks Local Offer

This will remain unchanged whilst the Cheshire Centre for Independent Living (CCIL) manage the EHIP’s process.  CCIL will cease to manage this contract from April 1st 2018, when EHIP’s will move to the New Short Breaks Team. 

We will continue to use this eligibility criteria after 1st April 2018, however we are going to expand the criteria as we are aware that recent changes in DLA and PIP has meant that some children and young people previously able to access them no longer can.  To ensure that these children and young people are able to access support we will also consider children and young people eligible for an EHIP if they could not access any of our commissioned support without an EHIP, for example a child who could only access one of our activity groups with 1:1 support.  This will be determined on a case by case basis for those children and young people not in receipt of DLA or PIP.

Q: What can it be spent on?
Please give a clear definition, including examples of what is and isn’t acceptable. 
Members have cited several instances where their claim seems to meet the description, but has not been allowed, leaving them out of pocket
This situation then leaves others fearful of spending the benefit as they cannot afford to risk being left out of pocket themselves

EHIPs can be spent on support that provides the parent carer with a break from their caring responsibility, whilst ensuring something meaningful for the child. 

Good examples of the use of EHIPs:

  •  Paying for a carer or personal assistant to take the child or young person out on an activity
  • Paying for a carer or personal assistant to accompany the family on a holiday
  • School holiday clubs
  • Membership to a sports club or gym for the child or young person
  • Fees for a youth club or other social clubs, that are not already part of our commissioned short break services
  • Specialist disability swimming lessons or trampoline clubs
  • Paying for your child or young person to attend a residential break

Q: Please share the guidelines referred to previously, that set out the requirement that parents have to be separate from their child / YP in order for it to constitute a short break for the parent

The national statutory guidance requires local authorities to provide short breaks that give parent carers a break from their caring responsibilities.  If for example a parent uses their EHIP to pay for a holiday in which they accompany their child, this does not constitute a short break, as the parent is there caring for the child.  If however the parent uses the EHIP to pay for a carer to accompany them on the holiday, who will take responsibility in whole or in part for caring for the child or young person, then this does constitute a short break.  The same might apply to buying a Merlin card for a carer to take the child out so a parent can have a break. The Short Breaks Team will be able to give families advice on how best they can use their EHIP’s

The statutory guidance that all local authorities have to work too is entitled ‘short breaks for carers of disabled children’ which we have included as a link below.  EHIPs constitutes part of Cheshire East’s short break ‘local offer’, this is the short breaks that are available to children, young people and their families without having to undergo an assessment of need, either through the National Assessment Framework for Children in Need and their Families or the Common Assessment Framework.

The Children Act 1989 (“the 1989 Act”) states that local authorities have a duty to provide, as part of the range of services they provide for families, breaks from caring for carers of disabled children to support them to continue to care for their children at home and to allow them to do so more effectively.

Q: What options are available for families whose children’s / YP’s needs are too complex for them to be go to activities without their primary carer?
Many parents have raised that they can no longer spend the money because of the requirement to be away from the child / yp – esp where there are attachment issues
Please can you share the alternative routes, including links to the charities mentioned by Cat, and direct payments

In terms of short break activities, this issue is about choice for parents and carers.  You should not be made to stay by our commissioned providers as by doing so you are not being given a break from you caring responsibilities.  If however you are given the choice to stay, for example to attend a parent coffee morning being run by the same provider and you decide for yourself that you would like to stay, that is fine.  Ultimately you must feel as parent carers that you have the ability to make a decision for yourself about whether you would like to stay or not. And not have the choice taken out of your hands.

If a child or young person is not able to access any activity independently or with a carer, therefore the parent carer is unable to receive a break from their caring responsibility, then EHIP’s is not the best way of supporting the child or young person.  In this situation we would be very happy to complete an assessment or to signpost families to providers outside of our short breaks local offer

Q: What reassurance can you offer to families whose previous experiences with Social Services has left them reluctant to try again?
Many parents have raised that they are not willing to go through the process of applying for SS assessments. They have experienced intrusive assessments (for example questioning them on their criminal background, drug / alcohol consumption, checking their standards of housekeeping, the child’s bedding, how safely the bleach is stored etc…) only to be told that as they are coping they do not qualify for any additional support. If this is no longer the experience then this is a great opportunity to explain what has changed & to reassure users.

These issues have been acknowledged by the authority and as a direct result of the feedback previously received from parent carers via the parent carers forum and others working with disabled children we have established a specialist children with disabilities social work team and the new short breaks team.  All members of both teams have experience of working with disabled children.  We have already received positive feedback from many parents and others across the wider disability network that this is improving assessment and service delivery.

We hope that these developments will reassure parent carers that we are committed to improving how we support disabled children and their families in line with our statutory responsibilities.

The lack of co-production at early stages of this process and ongoing lack of clarity in communications has led to a general feeling that the changes have not been made for the benefit of our members’ families, but to cut costs.  
A full communication would be an opportunity to publicly state that this is not the case and explain the benefits of the changes that have been made.

Representatives from the parent carers forum and individual parent / carers have been involved in seven engagement events over the last three years. This engagement has been enhanced by a parent / carers quick quiz, direct calls to recipients of EHIPs and through feedback via commissioned services. The development of a good short break support offer is a priority and the engagement with parent / carers has provided effective influence and direction to the redesigned offer.   Representatives from the parent carers forum are currently involved in the task and finish group that has been set up to ensure that the transition from our current contract with CCIL to the short breaks team is as seamless as possible.

It is regrettable that there is a general feeling that changes are not being made for the benefit of carers and I can categorically state that all the work that has been completed over the past many months has been with an aim to improve services, not as a cost cutting exercise.  The local authority’s legal duties around short breaks are to ensure that parent carers receive a break from their caring responsibility; there is no duty upon the local authority to provide Early Help Individual Payments to families, the authority could have taken the decision as many local authorities have across the country to directly commission support and signpost families directly to it.  After consultation with the parent carers forum we decided to maintain Early Help Individual Payments for parents to give them greater choice concerning how they receive breaks from care.  If this was solely a cost cutting exercise we surely would have ceased providing EHIPs.

We intend to publish an EHIP’s fact sheet as part of our local offer ‘Livewell’ webpages over the coming days and will establish EHIP’s surgeries that will operate through day and early evenings across the authority. These surgeries will be an opportunity for any parent, currently receiving EHIP’s and new cases, to discuss any EHIP issue with a member of the short breaks team

Cat Linde the short breaks team manager is currently identifying dates and venues and we will then publish and promote these events.

Chair’s blog: Happy New Year!

The parent carer forum would like to wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New year.

We would like to share with you some of the things we have achieved in 2017 also some of our plans for 2018.

2017 has been a very busy year for the reps we have been working on and helping roll out the new toolkit which schools should be using now making a uniform approach in all schools when it comes to SEN. This makes it easier for schools, parents and the LA to work together.

Myself and Chris have been working with the new short breaks team, sharing your concerns and working with them on the transfer of managing EHIPS from CCIL back into the council. There is now a team of people who will be working with families on EHIPs instead of just one person. The team are currently looking for a pre-paid card provider for EHIPs so families are not paying out of their own pocket. We also wanted some feedback on your preference on how they do the EHIPs forms: would you want them sending out before your visit from the short breaks team or would you prefer them to bring it on the day of your visit?

Cat Linde – team manager for the short breaks team – says:

‘Another productive meeting with Mandy and Chris today, things are feeling much more positive! 

Working closely with Nick from CCIL has been great and will really help towards a smooth transition for EHIPs. 

Parents now have the CWD Short Break Team contact details [you can call them on 01625 378083] and some have been in touch, it’s fab to start making links. 

My team and I are looking forward to meeting lots more parents at our upcoming coffee morning’ 

I am currently on the team looking at the new free school planned for 2020 we are currently going to tender. I will keep you informed of the progress. I think it is great that the council want a parent view on this it also gives us the opportunity to have our say on our children’s future schooling.

I would like to thank everyone who has been involved with the parent carer forum in 2017 and invite you all to get involved in 2018.

Mandy Dickson, 31 December 2017