Update for children and families, May 2020
At the beginning of the lockdown period, Rutland County Council SEND service wrote to every family, (225), who had either applied for an assessment or already had an EHC Plan, to advise them that we may have to make changes or pause the SEND process because of the Covid19. At that stage we did not have all the Government information or fully understand how the impact of Covid19 would affect the Council’s ability to offer our usual SEND service, or how the circumstances for families, schools and health services might affect new assessments and annual reviews.
Since that time, the SEND and Inclusion Service has made adjustments to our way of working and how we communicate with children and families so that we can continue with ‘business as usual’ and meet the individual needs of children and young people with SEND. However, the impact of Covid19 on families and on the capacity and the working conditions of key personnel involved may result in a child or young person’s provision being different from that which is set out in their EHC plan.
All new requests for Inclusion or an Education, Health & Care (EHC) needs assessment are being considered in the usual way and we are making decisions whether or not we can complete EHC assessments within the usual 6 week timescale. Wherever possible, we are making decisions about whether or not to issue EHC Plans also within the statutory timescales. If an assessment has been agreed, we are continuing with these and, as far as possible, we will work to the usual timescales set out in the Code of Practice. We are using technology to hold meetings with children, parents and schools or settings using video conferencing. Our ‘Getting to Know You’ meetings and Annual Reviews can also be held in this way. Where this is not possible we are gathering information using emails and telephone calls.
There may be some circumstances during the Covid19 lockdown or due to Covid19 social distancing measures, where we cannot complete an assessment or finalise an Education, Health and Care Plan. For example, a child needs a face to face assessment by an Educational Psychologist so that we can understand the learning needs and make decisions on the right provision for the child. Where this happens and we come to a point when we have to pause the process, we will keep you informed and explore what other solutions or help may be available during this time. We will also let you know when we expect to be able to continue and bring the assessment process to a conclusion.
SENDIASS (the impartial advice service for SEND) is still offering the usual service to families and Mediation and Appeal Tribunals are also operating using video conference technology.
We are in contact with all schools and colleges and have given advice about conducting Annual Reviews. We expect these to be carried out as usual, with the meetings being held virtually, using video conferencing where this is possible. There are 59 Annual Reviews due and of those 29 have taken place or have a date set, for 28 annual reviews SEND case officers are liaising with parents or the schools to set up these up and a few are paused.
The Local Authority has a responsibility to work with early years settings and schools, which it is doing, to assess whether a child and young person with an EHC plan is able to have their needs met safely at home or should be attending their school as outlined in the Department for Education (DfE) guidance.
We made a commitment to contact all families of children and young people with a special educational need or disability, even if a child does not yet have an EHC Plan. We have reached almost all of you, at least once if not more often. We want to know how you are coping and be able to offer advice and support if we can. Many parents have told us that they have found this contact very reassuring, even if they do not need any extra help at the moment.
On Friday 1st May the government released new SEND Guidance on the temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (Covid-19), available here and here. We are speaking to the parent carer forum, schools and our health colleagues to ensure we are following the guidance and will update you again shortly.
In the meantime the Early Help, SEND and Inclusion team are working from home but we can still be contacted in the usual way. Please do not hesitate to contact them should you have any questions or concerns.