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Coronavirus Changes

Temporary changes to the law on Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans

Click HERE to view the open letter from Vicky Ford, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their families and carers and those who work to support them. Following the introduction of the new national restrictions on 5th November, this letter provides advice and guidance on several issues, including school attendance, children who are clinically extremely vulnerable, remote education, face coverings in education settings, respite, health services for children and young people with SEND, and the new winter package to provide support for children and young people and their families.

 

 (All information below is taken from the Council for the disabled children website - https://councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/news-opinion/news/temporary-changes-law-education-health-and-care-needs-assessments-and-plans)

The government has today announced temporary changes to the law on Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments and plans. This is to give local authorities, health commissioning bodies, education settings and others who contribute to these processes more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by coronavirus.

The Secretary of State for Education issued a notice under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 - duty to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with EHC plan. The modification to Section 42 means that: the duty on local authorities or health commissioning bodies to secure or arrange the provision is temporarily modified to: a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so.

There will also be changes in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Regulations, temporarily amending the statutory timescales for various EHC needs assessment and plan processes. The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (the ‘Amendment Regulations’) temporarily amends four sets of Regulations that specify timescales that apply to local authorities, health commissioning bodies and others: mainly for various processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans.

It is important to note that this guidance also confirms which key elements of the processes over EHC needs assessments and plans are unchanged. Notably this includes that a local authority must still consider requests for a new EHC needs assessment, must still secure all of the required advice and information in order to be able to issue a plan, and must have regard to the views and wishes of a child, the child’s parent or a young person when carrying out its SEND functions under the Children and Families Act 2014.

This non-statutory guidance provides a summary of these legislative changes and sets out the key implications for all who play a part in the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans.

This is essential reading for parent carers, young people and professionals and practitioners in the education, health and social care and VCS sector. You can read the full guidance here: 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/changes-to-the-law-on-education-health-and-care-needs-assessments-and-plans-due-to-coronavirus  

Temporary law change for Education Health and Care plans extended until 30th June

Friday 29th May 2020

Today, the Department for Education have announced that they intend to extend the temporary change in the law for Education Health and Care Plans until end of 30th June 2020.

The government first implemented temporary changes to the law regarding Education Health and Care (EHC) plans during the Coronavirus pandemic on the 1st May.  

The changes means education and health support set out for a child with special educational needs (SEN) in an EHC plan, may be different for a period of time.

Local authorities and health providers will have to use "reasonable endeavours" to secure this support. This means that they do not have to do exactly what is detailed in the EHC plan if this is not possible during the Coronavirus outbreak. However they should try other ways of providing the support. For example, your child may be offered help virtually over the phone or online rather than face to face.

Amanda Batten CEO of Contact said: "The extension of the temporary change in law for EHC plans will be worrying for many families we support. In particular, there will be children encouraged to return to school this month without the support in their EHCP that enables them to access learning.

"We recognise that this is a difficult time for all parties, but we urge the Government to carefully monitor the impact the extension is having on the development and well-being of children with SEN and disabilities. It is equally important that key professionals in health and local government who have been re-deployed during the crisis, are able to return to their crucial roles supporting children with SEND as a matter of urgency. It is so important that disabled children are not further disadvantaged at this time. We have written to the Children's Minister, Vicky Ford alongside a  number of other charities about our concerns."

Families needing advice about EHC plans or any aspect of their child's education, can contact our Freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555 and speak to our education advisers. You can also email us at helpline@contact.org.uk or get in touch with our helpline team via Live ChatFacebook or Twitter.

Local authorities' duties to disabled children under the Children Act 1989 remain in place. These include the duties to assess and arrange provision to support disabled children's needs while they are under 18, and the needs of their carers.

More information can be found below:

You can also read the joint ministerial letter from Minister Ford, Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, and Minister Whately, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Care, to children and young people with SEND and their parents and carers here:

https://councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/help-resources/resources/joint-ministerial-letter

The Department for Education has published new guidance on phased returns to schools, colleges and nurseries

By 1 June at the earliest, primary schools in England may be able to welcome back children in key transition years – nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. In particular, as per the existing guidance on vulnerable children and young people, vulnerable children of all year groups continue to be expected and encouraged to attend educational provision where they can safely  do so.

The guidance sets out principles that will apply to the phased return including:

  • Vulnerable children of all year groups continue to be expected and encouraged to attend educational provision where it is appropriate for them to do so (for children with education, health and care (EHC) plans this will be informed by a risk assessment approach)
  • If a child or young person lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the guidance on shielding, it is advised they only attend an education setting if social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, if they are able to understand and follow those instructions. This may not be possible for very young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing. If stringent social distancing cannot be adhered to, those individuals are not expected to attend. They should be supported to learn or work at home.

The guidance sets out a range of protective measures to ensure education settings remain safe places including:

  • reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups without mixing with others
  • staggered break and lunch times, as well as drop offs and pick ups
  • increasing the frequency of cleaning, reducing the used of shared items and utilising outdoor space

Further updates and analysis to follow.

Full guidance available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-educational-and-childcare-settings-to-prepare-for-wider-opening-from-1-june-2020