Question and Answers from the Lockdown: Questions, Information and Advice Coffee Morning
CEPCF were joined by CEIAS (Cheshire East Information and Advice Service), representatives from Cheshire East council including those from Education and Short Breaks to answer questions that had arisen from the current covid19 lockdown. Topics discussed included, school attendance during lockdown, EHCP and SEN Support provision during lockdown, Short Break services, and the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.
Click here to watch the recording from the coffee morning. If you don’t have time to watch the recording, continuing reading below where we have outlined the main points that have been raised.
Restrictions & guidance – reasonable adjustments for CYP with SEND
Q. Can we get out of the house for more than an hour or more than once a day – is this allowed this time round?
A. The guidance is clear that there are allowances to be made where required – it states that:
If you (or a person in your care) have a health condition that routinely requires you to leave home to maintain your health – including if that involves travel beyond your local area or exercising several times a day – then you can do so.
Children under 5, and up to 2 carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care, are not counted towards the gatherings limits for exercising outside.
Q.Is there any form or certificate to prove that my child is allowed to be out of the house more often? They will need to stop for breaks on benches but I’m worried we will be challenged about this.
A.You could take a copy of a PIP / DLA letter or diagnostic report. Maybe as a photograph on your phone. We are looking into whether Cheshire East could produce a letter specifically for this and will update this briefing once we have had a response.
Cheshire East Carers Hub also have a letter they can send to carers that are registered with them proving their carer status. If you would like a letter contact the Service Access Team on firstname.lastname@example.org or call them on 0300 303 0208 and ask for the NHS Carers letter.
Pupils with EHCPs who are not being offered a place at their school / college
Q.My child has an EHCP, but their school / college says they can’t have a place as we’re not critical workers – is this right?
A. Guidance from DfE shared by CDC and others all CYP with an EHCP should be offered a place.
Please provide the name of the setting, the name of the pupil and a contact number – they will work with you and the setting to try to help them find ways to make it work.
If you have any good practice from your child/young persons school you would like to share, please email to the team as well.
Concerns about choosing not to send a pupil with an EHCP into school / college
Q.My child has been offered a place, but I don’t want to send them in. Will we be fined for non-attendance?
A.There will be no fines for vulnerable children and young people that choose not to go back in even if they have been offered a place. Schools are being asked to mark the register with a “C” code for authorised absence.
Settings should look to find ways to still ensure as much of the provision in the plan is delivered as possible – all settings have been encouraged to work with parents, carers and young people to co-produce an agreement using a “Temporary Provision Plan” (see below)
Q.My child has a history of anxiety and school refusal. I don’t want to send them in at the moment, but I am concerned about how it will be recorded and if it will count against us
A. The guidance is again very clear around this, advice that you talk to the school in the first instance, vulnerable children no penalisation/no fines and are in discussions with the school that they are marked as a C code in the register – meaning authorised absence, so no fines or prosecutions.
EHCP amendments / easements and temporary provision plans
Q. I don’t see how school can actually deliver the provision in my child’s EHCP – they need routine and familiarity. I understand school can’t do this at the moment. What should we do? What should the setting do?
A.There has been no change to the legal duties around the Children & Families Act, the SEND Code of Practice, or the Equalities Act, so all provision set out in an EHC plan should still be delivered. Temporary plans are to be co-produced with parents, you know your children best, and are aware of the impact of lockdown and COVID upon your children. Part of the discussions around this temporary plan should look at how the pupil will return to their setting when they are able to as this is a concern for many children, young people and their parents/carers.
Recent clarification around EHC plans and temporary plans can be found in the open letter from Vicky Ford MP. The key headlines from the letter are
- The legal duty on schools and colleges to use their best endeavours to meet the special educational needs of their pupils and students, including those supported through SEN Support, remains unchanged, whether they are attending school or college or at home for any period.
- EHCP provision: it remains the duty of the local authority and health commissioning body to secure or arrange the provision specified in the plan under section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014. Where it becomes more difficult to do so, education settings, local authorities and health partners (where applicable) should discuss with families to co-produce alternative arrangements for delivering provision. These decisions should be considered on a case-by-case basis which takes account of the needs of and circumstances specific to the child or young person, avoiding a one size fits all approach. At this stage, they do not intend to use the powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify the section 42 duty, but say they will keep this position under review based on the evidence.
- All pupils and students not receiving face-to-face education for whatever reason should be provided with suitable remote education. Education settings should work collaboratively with families, putting in place reasonable adjustments as necessary, so that pupils with SEND can successfully access remote education alongside their peers.
- Children and young people can continue to receive appropriate support from health and social care services where it is reasonably necessary for the purposes of provision specified in an EHC plan. Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff can provide interventions as usual, including where this requires them to move between settings.
- The decision for a child or young person with an EHC plan to stay away from their education setting is ultimately a matter of choice rightly for parents and young people. If a parent wishes for their child to be absent or a young person chooses not to attend, they should inform the education setting of this so it can be properly recorded. Given the exceptional circumstances, the Departmental guidance is clear that it expects leaves of absences to be granted. Absence will not be penalised.
- Covid-19 testing is voluntary, so no child or young person will be tested unless informed consent has been given by the appropriate person (usually the parent or young person). As such, no children or young people will be prevented from receiving face-to-face education if for any reason they are not tested.
Click here to read Vicky Ford MP letter in full along with the SEND Newsflash with updated school guidance.
Q.Will my child still get the face to face health care delivery that’s in their EHCP?
A. All health and care provision and therapies should continue. We have heard some reports that settings have had concerns about external visitors coming into settings, but the guidance is clear that this should be allowed and Cheshire East are working with these schools at the moment. There has also been no request to defer staff this time around as with the first lockdown to ensure needs outlined in the plans can happen
Q.If my child’s EHCP says they need one to one support but they can’t go into school, should they still get one to one support for online learning?
A. A temporary provision plan should be written, coproduced with the parents, if the child was attending school then it would be expected but if parents are choosing to keep the child/young person at home it would need to be explored on a place by place basis. Good practice has shown that some schools are providing 1-1 support via teams or google classrooms.
Support for pupils on SEN support
Q.My child is on SEN support. They really can’t manage online learning – should the setting do anything to help?
A.Information has been sent to schools, as part of the bulletins via the SENCOs to support SEN support learners, but this needs further developing. Discussions around further guidance need to be had with the IQT team to clarify what is expected.
Again the SEND Code of Practice still stands around meeting the needs of ALL learners and also the Equality Act . CEIAS are also here to support anyone who needs help or further information.
If a parent would like a place at the school for their child or young person on SEN support and haven’t been offered one they can also email the inbox and we will look to see what we can do, as they still fall in the vulnerable category. email@example.com
Short breaks, respite and EHIPS
Q,Can my child still go out with their PA for respite?
A.If you are receiving direct payments then you are the employer and need to follow government guidance, but we have no concerns about this from Short Breaks perspective. Also you are allowed a childcare bubble so can be part of this. As long as they are following the guidance there is no reason that this cannot happen.
Q.Are any activities still running?
A. Last week Short Breaks published their timetable from commissioned providers. Click here to see the updated timetable. This included information on what activities are available by each provider along with contact details and how to get involved.
Q.In the spring we were able to use our EHIPs to get some outdoor things, but it’s too cold and wet to use that now. Can we get something for indoors now as well?
A. Early Help Individual Payments (EHIPs) are still be considered for alternative uses during the lockdown and short breaks are looking at providing information in February 2021 regarding applications for EHIPs from April 2021. For more expensive items, please consider applying to the Family Fund who have received extra funding from the Government to support families with disabled children. Click here to find out more about the family fund and apply for a grant. The Short Breaks team can help you with your application to the family fund if you need any support. Contact the short breaks team via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Q.Is there any advice for parents whose children are home learning?
A. Best advice to parents is not to put yourself under pressure. Can Reduce timetables so that child/young person will engage in or Maths/English/Science only. Breaking things up and lessons into chunks rather than sitting their for long periods. Parents also need to remember that it doesn’t need to be formal education, can do some baking and other activities instead. Its also about settings working with families to come up with workable solutions for families.
There is also the national tutoring programme that are advertising that they are there and trying to let parents know that they could ask schools to get in touch with them to provide support. All schools should be aware of them and schools can contact them directly (not the parents). Click here to find out more about the national tutoring programme
Q.Are annual reviews still going ahead and how are they working?
A,Part of the review needs to be about transitioning the child/young person back into school as opposed to just focussing on the plan itself. They should still be going ahead as planned but are different with them being online. If there is any difficulties getting hold of key workers then can contact CEIAS and they will support with this.
Other examples of alternative solutions to hold the review could be a blended approach where the setting can find a room (if a parent is struggling with technology) and they can use the laptop with staff sitting several metres away to help support or parent can access the school in person and other attendees access remotely, even had a case recently where a parent was on loud speaker next to the computer as was struggling to access the virtual meeting.
Q. Children and young people are coming up to a transition and are not currently able to visit potential settings, is there anything in place to support the decision making process as deadlines are nearing
A.Some schools and colleges have virtual tours that can be accessed online, if there is not already a virtual tour they could ask to speak to staff members over teams or over the phone or if a staff member provide a virtual tour.
If they are transitioning into a post 16 place then they have until Mar 31st for the EHC plan to be finalised. All other age groups the deadline is Feb 16th, this deadline has not been eased by the Government and there is going to be some difficulty in meeting. The advice would be to have conversation with your key-worker (if they have an EHCP) or directly with the school (if no EHCP). if anyone is struggling to get in touch with their keywork or school then they can contact CEIAS and we will provide support.
There is an information sheet ‘Choosing a school for your child with SEND’. It contains advice on things to consider, things to do before speaking to the school and ideas on what you could ask the school. Click here to read ‘Choosing a school for your child with SEND’
COVID Winter Grant Scheme
Also discussed during the coffee morning was the COVID winter grant scheme. Cheshire East Council with help from schools, colleges, early years settings and other family support services are distributing vouchers to the most vulnerable children and families to pay for essentials such as food and energy. The money is Cheshire East’s share of the government’s £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme which will be available from early December 2020 to March 2021 to support those most in need across England with the cost of food, energy (heating, cooking, lighting), water bills and other essentials.
If you think you may be entitled to free school meals, please click here.