Monthly Archives: May 2020

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 SENDReturns@cheshireeast.gov.uk 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 cheshireeastpcf@gmail.com 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,

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

and carers”

Click here for “Transitioning back to School” document

USEFUL MENTAL HEALTH WEBSITES AND APPS

Whatisasocialstory

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 shortbreaksteam@cheshireeast.gov.uk

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. and-cant-do” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>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 enquiries@cheshireeastcarershub.co.uk 

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 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 cheshireeastpcg@gmail.com

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 cheshireeastpcf@gmail.com 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 SENTeamEast@cheshireeast.gov.uk 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 cheshireeastpcf@gmail.com]

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.

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

Please click here to read CEATs guide as a document

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.

Currently:
• 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
Contact
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 theautismteam@cheshireeast.gov.uk
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.

USEFUL LINKS AND INFORMATION:
We have placed a range of resources which we hope will be helpful on the CEAT website:
and-disabilities/education/supporting-send-in-education/pupils-with-asc/autism.aspx
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
www.ican.org.uk
www.autismeducationtrust.org.uk/autism-awareness-week/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=DA_SsZFYw0w&fbclid=IwAR3Sz7Hyq_M5jbywLiKzncTjTThcerZg4kVlW7GbnDysSNiRD7eeQ2oYF7A&app=desktop (link to social distancing story)
Chatterpack.net (SALT activities)
www.Copingskillsforkids.com
andlanguage.info
www.signalong.org.ok
Young Minds – Talking to your child about Coronavirus and 10 tips from their Parents Helpline to support family wellbeing: https://youngminds.org.uk/blog/talking-to-your-child-about-coronavirus/
www.elsa-support.co.uk

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.

Remember:

  • 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 cheshireeastpcf@gmail.com

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: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-of-practice-0-to-25.

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:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-send-risk-assessment-guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-send-risk-assessment-guidance.

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: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-online-education-resources/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-online-education-resources-for-home-education.

Funding
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: and-childrens-social-care.

We are also providing financial support to schools to meet additional costs arising from Covid-19: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-financial-support-for-schools.

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): https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

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

Other support includes:

  • The charity Contact provide information and advice for families of disabled children, with support available via their Freephone Helpline (0800 808 3555) and website: https://contact.org.uk/covid-19.
  • CDC have been asked to pull together resources and to respond to frequently asked questions, the link is here: and-guidance.
  • The Information Advice and Support Services Network can provide further help: https://cyp.iassnetwork.org.uk/getting-help/.
  • The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have provided an overview of when to seek medical advice on coronavirus (COVID-19). For information regarding 111 and what to do if your child is unwell, see: https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2020-04/covid19_advice_for_parents_when_child_unwell_or_injured_poster.pdf.