We recommend that you read information about local services alongside the guidance published and regularly updated by Government here:
Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people (opens a page on the GOV.UK website)
Update - 6 May
What are the changes to SEND legislation announced by the Department for Education on 30th April?
On 30th April 2020 the Department for Education published guidance on temporary legislative changes to processes relating to education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans. These reflect the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic is creating for the system that supports children and young people with special educational needs and their families. The full guidance can be found at the link below:
Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) (opens a link on GOV.UK website)
The temporary changes can be summarised as follows:
a) Under normal circumstances, local authorities or health commissioning bodies have a duty to secure or arrange the support agreed in an education health and care plan. This is changed to be a duty for local authorities or health commissioning bodies to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange the support. This might mean for example that the frequency with which support agreed in an EHC plan is delivered is reduced due to less staff being available, or that it is delivered virtually / online rather than face to face to minimise the transmission of coronavirus. This means that local authorities or health commissioning bodies must do their very best to provide the support specified in an EHCP, but they will not be penalised if they can't for reasons relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
b) Under normal circumstances, specific timescales apply for various processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans. For the time being, where it is not practical to meet that time limit for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the specific time limit will not apply. Instead, the local authority or other body to whom that time limit applies will have to complete the process as soon as is reasonably practicable. An example of such a time limit is the 20 weeks to issue a plan to someone eligible for one within 20 weeks of the initial request
The guidance also confirms which key elements of the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans are unchanged. These include that a local authority must still:
a) consider requests for a new EHC needs assessment
b) secure all of the required advice and information in order to be able to issue a plan
c) have regard to the views and wishes of a child, the child’s parent or a young person
At a time of additional challenge for children and young people with special educational needs and their families, the guidance highlights the importance of local authorities, health services, education settings and all those involved in the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans working closely with families, and of involving them fully in decisions about their support.
What do these temporary legislative changes mean for children and young people with SEND and their families in Kingston and Richmond?
In April, Ian Dodds (Director of Children's Services) and Tonia Michaelides (Managing Director, Kingston & Richmond Clinical Commissioning Group) wrote to all children and young people with EHCPs and their families. The letters can be viewed at the link below.
Letter to children and young people with EHCPs and their families (opens a page on this website)
In the letter, they said that “whether the child or young person is at home or in nursery, school or college, education, health and social care staff will continue to work with families, as well as the child or young person themselves, to do what they can to provide the support agreed in an EHC plan”. This approach will continue. Staff will deliver the support agreed in a plan as fully as possible, and complete processes as quickly as they can.
The flexibility offered by the temporary changes will only be used when absolutely necessary and on a case by case basis. These situations will be discussed and explained to those individual parents and carers who will be affected, and as much as possible with the children and young people themselves. This will happen through updating the risk assessment process described in the letter from Ian Dodds and Tonia Michaelides.
Following the announcement of the changes, Achieving for Children has written to all early years providers, schools and colleges where children and young people from Kingston and Richmond are educated, to explain and clarify the expected approach during the time that these temporary changes to legislation are in place. They have also supported online briefings for all school SENCOs in the boroughs to ensure that the information is fully understood.
If parents and carers have questions or issues relating to this, the best place for them to contact is their child’s education provider, whether that be their nursery, school or college. If, after you have done this, questions still remain you can contact the SEND team on 020 8547 5872 or email email@example.com.
The Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) in Kingston and Richmond are also available to offer independent advice and support:
The number for contact with SENDIASS is 020 3793 9596
You will then be able to choose from 5 options:
Option 1: Benefits Advice
Option 2: Richmond SEND Information Advice and Support Service
Option 3: Kingston SEND Information Advice and Support Service
Option 4: Service Manager
Option 5: All other enquiries.
or email: RichmondKingston@kids.org.uk
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" (link above), paragraphs 21 and 22 relate to EHCP process and provision during the current Coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, AfC is 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 doing to support parents and carers of children with special educational needs, disabilities and complex health conditions now that most children, including some with EHCPs, are unable to attend school?
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 support outside school where possible. 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 have been and will continue to 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 is happening with short breaks provision during the Coronavirus outbreak?
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 have had 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 deliver as much short break care provision as possible as we know that this will give vital support to parents and carers particularly with closures to schools and residential units. As part of this, we are seeking to re-task staff from their current roles to support essential services to continue where possible.
What resources are available to support learning at home if my child is unable to attend school and / or their school closes.
Schools have been working hard to provide resources for use at home whilst children and young people are unable to attend school. These may include learning packs to take home or online resources to access from home. If you have any questions about the resources provided by your child’s school the best place to go is their school, for example to their class teacher or the school SENCO.
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. The primary source of home learning resources for your child is their school, as the school will know the individual needs of your child and will therefore be able to provide the most relevant and if appropriate, bespoke materials.
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 is greater 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 this might have implications for 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. We have published an amended temporary direct payment policy on the Personal Budgets and Direct Payments page on this website. Click here.
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 needs. It is not possible to withdraw the money associated with EHCPs and already allocated to schools and reassign to families for this 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 ongoing, and on the basis that any such arrangements will be done with the best interests of the children in mind and according to their needs. 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.
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?
The needs of children requiring 1:1 support in order to access education are being 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 risk assessing their situation, as they are with all children, and deciding whether or not they are able to offer them a place. We suggest you contact the school and make them aware of any concerns you may have.
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 email@example.com. 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.