All schools, nurseries, private schools and sixth form colleges in England have closed until further notice, as part of the country’s on-going response to coronavirus.
To stay up to date regarding Schools in Solihull and what to do if you need to find a place for your child due to your circumstance please click here.
There have been several national documents published relating to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The situation is dynamic, eg the Department for Education and Public Health England Coronavirus guidance on vulnerable children and young people was first published on 22nd March but subsequently updated on 25th and 27th March. Links to key publications and a summary of key points in relation to CYP with SEND are shown below:
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people
Key points include:
- 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
The SEND 0-25 Service has been working hard over the last few weeks to develop additional support for children, young people, families and schools during this unprecedented time. I am really pleased to inform you that the Community Educational Psychology Team has provided a link psychologist for every school in the borough to support teachers and other front line colleagues. We are also launching a Family Consultation Service which will be available to all Solihull families from the 20th April 2020. This has been designed to support families with a range of issues such as:
* 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. Further details can be found on the Local Offer website;
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.
STAY SAFE / STAY WELL
Please continue to follow the Government advice to stay in, socially isolate or distance as appropriate. The most up to date advice is available on the NHS website. Our Local Offer Page is a useful resource for updates and resources https://socialsolihull.org.uk/localoffer
Please try to remember that whilst we are physically distancing there are many safe ways to stay in connected. As a parent and a psychologist I am grateful that we have access to a wide range of social media platforms to help us stay in touch with each other. I wish you all well for the summer term. Ann will be back for next week’s newsletter.
Dr Halit Hulusi
Principal Educational Psychologist
SEND Service update
I hope that this finds you all well and that you managed to get some rest and relaxation over the Easter period. Halit did a great job of the Newsletter last week so a big thank you to him for stepping in with that.
The SEND 0-25 service continues to embed new ways of working and it is as busy as ever, ‘at the office’ wherever that may be for each of us currently. My particular, ‘office’ today is very different from the one I am used to. It is complete with a snoozing Collie dog in the chair and a TV that enables me to keep an eye on the daily COVID19 updates. That is a bit different to the view over Solihull that I am used to! Neither do I generally wear my slippers for work……
Wherever we are though and whatever we are wearing, the real work goes on and there is no sign of any change there.
This week, Tim Browne our new Assistant Director for Access and Inclusion arrived. It just be very strange being inducted into a new Local Authority area, ‘Virtually’ but Tim seems to be taking it all in his stride. It is only day five for Tim and he has already, ‘Met’ with a number of key colleagues in the service and is supporting the progression of a number of areas of work that affect all vulnerable children in the borough, including those with SEND.
A very big WELCOME to Tim who I know will be keen to meet with parents as soon as social distancing rules allow for this.
Specialist Inclusion and Support Service (SISS)
SISS teams are currently working with over 500 families of children who are on the caseloads of the five teams. For any families not currently receiving direct support, there are various avenues available to access help and advice.
For families of children with a diagnosis of autism where we currently are not in contact with you, if you would like autism specific advice and support, you should first contact your School SENCo. Where specialist advice is required, they will then contact the Autism Team with details and we will then be in touch with you by phone within 3 working days. If you are unable to contact your school SENCo, you can in that case contact the team directly by emailing the Autism Team Coordinator and Lead Professional at; firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com . The Team will require your child’s name, date of diagnosis, current school and nature of advice required. We will aim to respond within three working days.
Resources and strategies to support children with autism are available at
The SEMH Team newsletter with activities for parents to use at home is available at https://socialsolihull.org.uk/localoffer/education/children-and-young-peoples-send-service/siss-2/social-emotional-and-mental-health-team-2/social-emotional-and-mental-health-team-parents-information/. This week’s activities are based on mindfulness techniques.
Not known to SISS?
For children who have never been referred to SISS, including those awaiting diagnosis, support and advice is available through the CEPS helpline or SOLAR.
SEND resources/activities to support parents are being added to the SISS area of the Local Offer and sent out to schools, parents of referred children and parent groups each week, these give lots of ideas about activities families can try out at home, which we hope you find useful.
Any ideas for future newsletters and advice sheets are very welcome.
Community Educational Psychology Service (CEPS)
Directly in response to COVID19 CEPS has developed;
- A school consultation line for all schools in Solihull. This enables schools to make contact with a named EP if they have a child or specific matter that they need to discuss.
- A family consultation line for SMBC families – This is proving popular with 15 sessions booked in for next week already. To see what the family support line has to offer and how to access it, use the following link.
- Critical Incident support
- Resources on the Local Offer
Children and education
The message from the government continues to be, ‘business as usual’ so far as EHCP’s are concerned. There may be some relaxation in timescales and expectations – we await guidance and will let you all know the position when it arrives. We have plenty of EHCP requests in the system and have received 30 new requests over the past four weeks so plenty to keep us all busy for now.
Schools led risk assessment
In response to Government guidance for children subject of an EHCP the Council has developed a Schools led risk assessment model, which will enable us to consider the needs of vulnerable children, including those with an EHCP and make sure that their needs are identified, met and reviewed on a regular basis. This will be circulated to Schools early next week.
STAY SAFE / STAY WELL
Please continue to follow the Government advice to stay in, socially isolate or distance as appropriate. The most up to date advice is available on the NHS website.
If your child becomes unwell or is involved in an accident please remember the NHS remains available to provide medical assistance and it is important that medical assistance is sought where this is appropriate. Useful guidance can be found here.
Other support during COVID19 continues to be available from sources in the following link.
The Local Offer
Please also keep checking our Local Offer Page for updates and changes https://socialsolihull.org.uk/localoffer this is our, ‘Go to’ place for updates and information.
Ideas will continue to be shared on the Local Offer Team Pages. Click on the name of the team that works with your child- for example https://socialsolihull.org.uk/localoffer/education/children-and-young-peoples-send-service/siss-2/the-speech-language-and-communication-disorder-team/parents/
Parent / Carer ‘Drop in’s’
A reminder that there are still slots available for the drop in on 14th May 2020 10am–2pm. If parents would value a telephone discussion or a skype meeting – please let me know. If you e-mail SENDenquiries@solihull.gov.uk and leave your contact details I will get back to you with a virtual, ‘appointment’
‘Check your battery’ and make sure you give it some attention this week.
Until next week…
Head of Service
Please see attachednewsletter from Ann Lowe, Head of SEND 0-25 Service.
Please find attached this weeks SEND 0-25 Service newsletter.
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.