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Free School Meals Scheme – February 2021
As part of the additional help and support to households during the winter phase of COVID-19, Solihull Council will be providing food support to families of children in receipt of free school meals over February half term, through the provision of supermarket vouchers.
We are committed to supporting all vulnerable families over this particularly challenging winter period. There is no need to apply for the vouchers as eligible families will be identified using our central database, with a manual process in place for the small number of parents who have not provided an email address.
Families who meet the free school meals benefits criteria, will receive a voucher to the value of £20.00 for the February half term period, per child. This is an increase from the £15 per week provision for the Christmas period, as an appreciation of the additional costs and bills families face during this cold period and after Christmas.
The gift cards will be supplied by Edenred and can be used to pay for food, personal hygiene and cleaning products, as well as other household essentials. They can’t be used for items which are restricted to over 18s, such as alcohol.
Eligible families will receive the voucher code via email from supplier Edenred by 12 February 2021.
- Parent and Carer FAQs
- How to use your eCode
- Our Here2Help pages provide details of additional food provision and essential utilities to support families with children, other vulnerable households and individuals
If you have any further queries call Solihull Connect general enquiries on 0121 704 8001.
Schools – Coronavirus
BSol CCG Briefing: Impact of Covid-19 on Support for CYP with SEND
- Covers children: supported by the social care system; with education, health and care (EHC) plans; and in alternative provision (AP) settings.
- CYP with an EHCP should be risk-assessed by their school or college in consultation with the local authority and parents, to decide whether they need to continue to be offered a school or college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home.
- If the local authority has not yet issued an EHC plan for a child, then they will not automatically fall within the definition of ‘vulnerable children’ for the purposes of attendance at an education setting during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, their educational setting and local authority have discretion to undertake a risk assessment and offer support if that is needed.
- The guidance makes it clear that there will be further information and changes, stating: “We are also proposing to amend regulations to provide for flexibility over matters such as the timescales in EHC needs assessments, and the reviews, re-assessments and amendments process where particular cases are affected by the COVID-19 situation.” (para 22)
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on isolation for residential educational settings
This is guidance to support management of children and young people in residential educational settings, including boarding schools, residential special schools and specialist colleges and children’s homes.
The full suite of Government guidance and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19) in educational settings for staff, parents and carers, pupils and students is available here:
The DfE has set up a Coronavirus Helpline. The number is 0800 046 8687.
Open Letter from Vicky Ford, Children and Families Minister – download here:
This is an open letter to children and young people with SEND, their parents, families and others who support them. Key points include reference to some of the guidance published by the government, plus:
- For those on SEN support, schools, colleges and local authorities have discretion to use the same risk judgement as for CYP with EHCPs to decide whether home or school is the safest setting for them (however, it is important that as many children as possible remain at home during this time in order to help reduce transmission rates.)
- The Government’s overwhelming aim for SEND, through the Coronavirus 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. The Bill includes temporary emergency powers to enable, where necessary, the legal requirements to be modified on local authorities in fulfilling their duties in relation to EHC plans. For example, where a local authority is unable, because of the outbreak, 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.
- The Government will also be seeking to amend regulations on the timescales for EHC plan processes where this is appropriate because of COVID19.
- Completing the review of the SEND system remains a priority for the Minister and Government. In light of the current situation, they will think carefully about the right way and timescale to do this.
A Joint Ministerial Letter to the Disability Charities Commission – download here:
This letter explains some of the potential changes under the Coronavirus Act in relation to disabled people of all ages, including CYP with SEND. This is a joint letter to the Disability Charities Commission written by: the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work; Minister of State for Care and the Secretary of State for Children and Families.
Council for Disabled Children has a resource page on advice and guidance related to Covid-19 here:
NHS England (NHSE) – all guidance for clinicians and NHS managers can be found here:
NHSE Guidance on prioritisation within community health services can be found here:
Describes which community health services should stop, partially stop or continue in order to release capacity to support the COVID19 preparedness and response. Implications in relation to support and identification of children with SEND include, for example, reduction in some screening services, health visitor checks and non-urgent therapy and community paediatric services.
NHSE Letter and guidance on managing capacity and demand in mental health, learning disability and autism services can be found here:
Coronavirus advice for the public on the NHS Website can be found here:
The local response to the Covid-19 situation reflects national guidance.
Impact of this in relation to CYP with SEND includes the following:
- Planned workshops for the last week in March to support review of the Solihull SEND Strategy were cancelled.
- All Birmingham SEND Improvement workstreams have undertaken impact assessments and many projects have been paused in light of the response of statutory services to prioritise the Covid-19 situation and the need to adhere to restrictions such as social distancing.
- Reprioritisation of community health services in line with NHSE guidance means that access to some services will cease or be reduced and planned trajectories to improve waiting times for therapies and neurodevelopmental assessments may not be met. Additionally, DMO and DCO SEND capacity will be reduced as the clinical postholders may be redeployed.
- Health providers’ ability to provide health advice for EHCPs over the next few months within statutory timescales is likely to be compromised.
- Local authorities are reviewing and clarifying their offer to schools and families at this time.
- Some meetings are being suspended or held virtually or digitally rather than in person, for example locality/EHCP panels.
Birmingham and Solihull Local Offers for CYP with SEND include some coronavirus updates and can be found here:
Birmingham and Solihull CCG website, which includes coronavirus updates, can be found here:
Philippa Coleman, Senior Children’s Commissioning Manger, BSol CCG
‘Go-to’ information on health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 outbreak
Whilst we do not have a definite date for when social distancing measures will be relaxed to allow children to return to school, the Community Educational Psychology Team, in conjunction with SOLAR colleagues, are already making plans to support children and staff to prepare for a successful transition back into their educational settings.
Guidance on Direct Payments and Payment to PA’s
Solihull MBC recognises that during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there may be difficulties for some families in using the monies identified within personal budgets and delivered as a Direct Payment for the usual agreed activities to be facilitated via Personal Assistants (‘PAs’).
As far as possible, direct payments should continue to be used as agreed to within the child or young person’s care and support plan. However, there may be circumstances during the pandemic where this is not possible. This may be due to personal circumstances or the circumstances of the PA (e.g. someone in the household being required to be ‘shielded’; self-isolating or social distancing due to being in a high risk group).
Where this happens we recognise that the usual supports in place to meet assessed need are unlikely to be available and that additional responsibility falls inevitably to members of the child or young person’s household. An additional consequence is that there may be monies within the child or young person’s Personal Budget that are not used and which would, in normal circumstances, be recouped in line with the existing Direct Payment policy.
The government has recently confirmed that councils and recipients of direct payments may adopt a more flexible approach to the use of direct payments during the current pandemic.
In order to assist families at this challenging time, we would confirm that where, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a child or young person’s PA service cannot practically be delivered:
- It will be considered an appropriate use of the monies in Direct Payment accounts if families choose to pay PAs in line with the assessed weekly hours.
- It will be considered an appropriate use of the monies in Direct Payment accounts if families choose to use some of the allotted PA support hours to ask PAs to undertake activities such as food shopping or collection of prescriptions.
- It is recognised that there may be additional need arising from the COVID-19 pandemic (particularly during the current lockdown period). Families are encouraged to contact the social care team to discuss this and any requests for associated specific resources which they feel are required to meet their child’s needs. Agreement may be given to use some of the assessed Direct Payment monies for such purchases or additional funding may be allocated if required.
Parents who wish to adopt this more flexible approach to the use of their child’s Direct Payment should discuss this with their social care team.
Parents should be aware that, as the employer of a Direct-Payment-funded PA, they are responsible for deciding whether to pay the child or young person’s PA for the usual hours and at what proportion of the usual rate. Further guidance on the employment of PAs during the current pandemic can be found within the recently-published government guidance and ‘Q&A’ (questions and answers), which can be accessed via the following link:
Finally, parents should note that where additional requests for spend on specific resources are agreed by the social care team, the usual expectation regarding receipt provision will continue to apply. Further information can be found within the linked government guidance and Q&A, above.
Home to School Travel Assistance
In order to support the safe transport of pupils to and from school we wish to draw parents and carers attention to the option of a personal travel budget.
In line with our home to school travel assistance policy children who qualify for a seat on a shared vehicle, i.e. a taxi or minibus, can also take up the option of a personal travel budget and take full responsibility for their child’s travel to and from school.
If you would like to apply to take up this option or require further information please contact the Education Transport Team via the following email firstname.lastname@example.org
Transition back to school
- Please select this link to download our Back to school transition guide.
Family Consultation Telephone Line
In order to support families during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Solihull Community Educational Psychology Service is providing direct access telephone consultation services for parents and carers. This service is available, 5 days a week for all parents and carers who live in Solihull who feel they may benefit from a consultation with a Community Educational Psychologist to support them with concerns they may have at this time. Concerns might include:
- How best to look after your own and/or your child’s mental and emotional well-being on a daily basis
- How to talk with children about COVID-19 and their worries related to it
- How to support children to engage with learning whilst at home
- How best to maintain social connections whilst complying with social distancing
- How to manage behaviour that can be challenging or difficult to manage
If you would like to arrange a consultation please call 0121 779 1734. Please see attached flyer for more information.