Provision of services for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Kingston and Richmond during COVID-19
We recommend that you read the information on this page alongside the guidance published by the Government on 22 March:
Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people (opens a page on the GOV.UK website)
20 March - SEND Position Statement
We understand that these are very worrying times and that you may be concerned about your child or young person's education, health and care provision. It is clear from recent government actions that vulnerable children, including those with an EHCP, are being prioritised and given support during these unprecedented times. However, at this stage, we are not in a position to be able to give exact details as to what will or will not be available. This is because a Bill is currently going through parliament which is seeking to allow changes to be made in relation to Local Authorities' statutory duties with regards to the delivery of provision in an EHCP and associated duties, including annual reviews. Until this Bill goes through parliament we are not in a position to fully answer queries or commit to actions relating to these matters. We will of course keep you informed as soon as the Bill has been passed.
Given the additional pressure that parents and carers of children and young people with SEND are already under during the current situation, what is AfC doing in Richmond and Kingston to be flexible with timescales relating to the EHC Plan process?
In the Department for Education's (DfE's) publication "Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people" updated on 25th March, paragraph 21 states that "we (the DfE) are also amending SEND regulations to change the timescales relating to EHC plan processes". Although these changes have not yet been announced, AfC is already being as flexible as possible during these unprecedented times. For example, the normal 15 day timescale that parents and carers are given to respond to proposed amendments to plans is now extended to 30 days, and if longer than this is needed parents and carers should contact their SEN caseworker to agree a realistic schedule. In Richmond, this includes amendments relating to changes arising from the LGO audit. We hope this approach will help parents and carers during this difficult time. We will review these timescales again to reflect updated DfE guidance, whenever that is released.
What is AfC planning to do to support parents and carers of children with special educational needs, disabilities and complex health conditions in the event that schools close?
We are working closely with our partners in local schools, residential schools and other education providers to understand their current situations and to plan for potential school and residential unit closures as they arise. This includes planning for the needs of individual children who will not be in school and/or able to stay in their residential placement. We will contact parents and carers directly on a priority basis (based on their child's assessed health and social care needs) to discuss the support available to their child as and when we become aware of school and residential unit closures or other changes to their provision.
What will happen to short breaks provision in the coming months?
It is our absolute priority to maintain our safeguarding and social care services, as well as the other essential services that children, parents and carers rely on. Although we will need to close or reduce some of our services, we are working hard to maintain our short break care and family support services for children with special educational needs, disabilities and complex health needs. We are currently working with our in-house teams, commissioned services and voluntary sector partners to maintain and extend our offer in this area, as we know that this will give vital support to parents and carers when there are closures to schools and residential units. As part of this, we are also in the process of re-tasking staff from their current roles to support essential services to continue.
What resources are available to support learning at home if my child is unable to attend school and / or their school closes.
Schools are planning to provide resources for this eventuality, whether they be learning packs to take home or online resources to access from home. If they have not already done so, your child’s school will contact you about this, or provide information on their website.
Is AfC able to provide any home learning resources in addition to those provided by the school?
An area has been created on the Local Offer website with materials that you may find useful, and links to resources available on other websites. We will add to this on a regular basis. Examples are materials suggested by our Educational Psychology Service and Clinical Commissioning Group colleagues.
If parents and carers of children and young people with an Education Health and Care Plan are receiving direct payments for a specific purpose, can we now use this money for other things?
During current events there will be flexibility in how direct payments received under the terms of their child's EHCP can be used. Parents and carers wanting to explore alternative uses should email email@example.com with details of how they would like to use the money. Examples of alternative uses might include payment of family members to deliver support. Please note we are awaiting Government guidance on what this might mean for other income received by the individuals concerned, for example the impact on any benefits received. Please also note NHS guidance re vulnerable groups, which may include relevance for example for elderly family members. AfC are in the process of producing an amended direct payment policy for use during the current exceptional situation and this will be published in the coming days.
If children and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) are unable to access their school placement because the school has closed due to COVID-19, can the parents and carers access money associated with the EHCP to buy in support at home?
While the school term continues, even if a school has closed, there is a responsibility for schools to support children's education provision. This cannot be the same provision as the child would access in school, but could involve online learning and other appropriate activities. Schools should be offering this remote learning to children and young people who have SEND. This is agreed at individual school level and activities and resources linked to each child or young person's individual need. It is not possible to withdraw the money associated with EHCPs and already allocated to schools and reassign to families for this short period of time.
Is it my choice if my child with an EHCP remains in school? Do I have more choice if resources are pooled and my child is moved to a different setting while school closures are in place?
Yes. It is a parent's decision whether or not to send their child to school. We will work with parents and schools to make case by case assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations for children with EHCPs. For some, they will be safer in education provision. For others, they will be safer at home. Planning on any pooled resource arrangements (i.e. when schools might combine provision with one or more other local schools) is at an early stage, but on the basis that any such arrangements will be done with the best interests of the children in mind and according to their needs. Resources will not be pooled in the short term, but we hope school staff will share expertise. These decisions are made at school level and if pooling does occur it is not expected that parents will be able to choose the provision they would like their child to access. If pooling does occur, it would still be the parent/carer’s decision whether or not to send their child to school.
If I decide to remove my child from school now, can I change my mind at a later stage?
If your child is absent from school because they are unwell or your family is self-isolating, your child will be able to return to school once he or she is well or their self-isolation period is completed. If you are keeping your child at home for their health and wellbeing or concerns about potential exposure to infection, then your child's school place will be maintained subject to a case by case assessment of the health and safeguarding considerations for your child at that time, and your child will be able to return to their school at a later date.
If I remove my child from school now will the same school place still be available for them when schools reopen?
If your child is absent from school because they are unwell, your family is self-isolating, or you are keeping your child at home for their health and wellbeing or concerns about potential exposure to infection, then your child's school place will be maintained / kept open for you.
The only situation where this would not be the case is if you decide that you wish to electively home educate your child in line with the Education Act 1996 and therefore formally inform us that you wish to end your child's current school placement. Under this, and only this situation, would your child's school placement not be maintained/held open.
No child will lose their place at their school if parents / carers decide to temporarily keep them off school during these unprecedented events.
My child has an EHCP. If they are absent from school because I choose not to send them in during the current COVID-19 arrangements, will this impact the content of their EHCP?
No. If your child is absent from school because they are unwell, your family is self-isolating, or you are keeping your child at home for their health and wellbeing or concerns about potential exposure to infection, the decision to do this will not impact the content of their EHCP.
To what extent will the provision in my child's EHCP remain available and be adhered to if children with EHCPs remain in school?
With schools remaining open for children and young people with an EHCP, the expectation is that the provision in a child’s EHCP will continue to be delivered wherever possible and practicable. Due to staffing challenges at the moment, it is likely that not all of the current provision identified in a plan will be exactly the same, but schools and their teams will do the very best they can to ensure children and young people are well supported. The therapy teams will be working with schools to try and meet the needs of individuals but this may be impacted by reduced staff.
Can parents and carers access therapy support if their child is at home?
Providers of speech and language therapy (Your Healthcare in Kingston and HRCH in Richmond) are planning to provide bespoke support on a child by child basis. More details will follow on this but it could include, for example, materials being sent to you, and / or online / Skype consultations.
There are children with EHCPs who require 1:1 support in order to access education, and some of these children have been advised to self-isolate so can't attend school. Would it be possible to deploy teaching assistants specifically funded through their EHCP to provide 1:1 support to the child at their home? Or what about providing medical tutoring?
Schools are in the process of planning how, from 23rd March, they will best meet the needs of the children of key workers and children and young people identified as being within “vulnerable groups”. The needs of children requiring 1:1 support in order to access education will be considered on an individual basis alongside the resources available. This, and the option of medical tutoring, should be discussed with your child’s school.
My child has special educational needs and/ or a disability but does not have an EHCP. Given that mainstream schools are remaining open for vulnerable children, does this mean that they will be able to continue to attend?
Even though your child does not have an EHCP, their school or nursery will be in the process of deciding which children are classified as vulnerable and therefore able to continue attending school from 23rd March. We suggest you contact the school, make them aware of any concerns you may have, and see if they can accommodate your son or daughter within their plans.
What can parents and carers do to help support the provision of local services at this time?
Please let us know about any particular situations that arise by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support us by only contacting us if it is necessary; this will allow staff to focus on those vulnerable children and families who most need our help and support.