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Sendiass FAQ during COVID-19

COVID-19- Questions and Answers

Updated 25 May 2020

Below are some of the questions that we’re hearing from parents and carers concerning the COVID-19 outbreak. We have done our best to offer answers, but the situation is changing daily. We will update this information as and when we know more.


All schools have been ordered to close to most pupils, however, schools are still open for the children of key workers, and ‘vulnerable children’.

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with an education, health and care (“EHC”) plan. The majority of children with SEN, who receive SEN Support at school but do not have an EHC plan, would be expected to stay home unless they have a social worker or a parent or carer who is a key worker. The key message is: If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.

It may also be decided that some children with EHCPs should also remain at home. The Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, Vicky Ford, has issued an open letter to children and young people with SEN, their parents/carers and families, and all others who support them.

In this letter, she makes it clear that: “[…] nurseries, schools, special schools, colleges and other training providers should undertake a risk assessment to establish the individual needs of each child or young person with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. This assessment should incorporate the views of the child or young person and their parents. This will inform the decision about whether they should continue in school or college, or whether their needs can be met at home safely.

If needs are best met at schools or colleges, we will support their school or college to meet their needs, wherever possible. For those on SEN support, schools, colleges and local authorities have discretion to use the same risk judgement to decide whether home or school is the safest setting for these children. It is, however, important that as many children as possible remain at home during this time in order to help reduce transmission rates.”

It is also important to note that your child may not be able to attend their normal setting as the government have indicated that schools may need to pool their resources.

If you feel that your child needs to continue receiving educational input, you need to raise with your school or LA the possibility of a risk to your child’s health, wellbeing or safety if they do not receive a particular provision or intervention.

There is an expectation that vulnerable children who have a social worker will attend school, so long as they do not have underlying health conditions that put them at severe risk. If your child has a social worker and you do not want to send them to school, then you need to discuss this with your child’s social worker.

If you do not want to send your child to school because they, or someone else in your family, is at particularly high risk due to COVID-19, there is no requirement to send your child in. Your child’s school will complete a risk assessment to determine if your child’s needs can be properly met at home and your opinions and wishes will be taken in to account.

The Education secretary has indicated that school transport will continue where possible. If your child is still entitled to go to school but transport has been stopped due to absences, speak to your school and LA about what temporary solutions may be able to be put in place.

The government have released guidance on the phased re-opening of schools from 1st June. You can read details of the re-opening from:

Following the recent government announcement about the plan to begin to reopen schools, Worcestershire County Council has written an open letter to parents, carers and guardians about Worcestershire’s approach to the wider re-opening of schools.

Parents are still able to request EHC needs assessments However, the government have temporarily amended the statutory timescales around needs assessments. This means that where it is impractical for a local authority to complete a needs assessment within the prescribed timescales due to a reason relating to the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), then the local authority must complete it as soon as ‘reasonably practicable’.

Under the Coronavirus Act, the requirement to carry out annual reviews can be temporarily disapplied where this is considered to be “appropriate and proportionate”. However, the Secretary of State for Education has not issued a notice under this power at this point in time, so the annual review requirements remain in place.

However, the government have temporarily amended the statutory timescales around annual reviews. This means that where it is impractical for a local authority to complete an annual review within the prescribed timescales due to a reason relating to the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), then the local authority must complete it as soon as ‘reasonably practicable’.

Annual reviews at this time may need to take a different form for example, they may be completed via video call or be briefer than usual.

If your child attends a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) or Alternative Provision (AP), this setting may remain open to provide support for ‘vulnerable children’ and/or children of key workers. The government guidance on vulnerable children states:

“AP providers are well-placed to cater for the needs of the children we are defining as vulnerable in a way that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. The AP sector therefore has a key role to play in helping safeguard this group of children at this difficult time.”

You should contact the Local Authority to find out if your child’s provision is open and discuss your options. 

This year’s summer exams, including A levels, GCSEs and SATS tests in primary schools, have been cancelled. Further guidance on what this means for children due to be taking exams can be found on the website (opens in a new window) and in this guidance from Ofqual (opens in a new window).

Ofqual have also released this update on how vocational and technical qualifications will be assessed and awarded this summer

Many schools have sent home some form of home learning to help parents support their children at home and you can discuss this with your child’s school. There are also many online resources and activities that have been made available for free during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please see the COVID-19 support and resources page. 

You are still able to get out once a day for exercise as long as you are practicing social distancing. There are also several online exercise classes and activities to keep everyone active, Please see the COVID-19 support and resources page. 

Important update for autistic individuals and those with learning disabilities.

The Government has published new guidance making clear that, if you are autistic or have a learning disability, you can leave your home more than once a day and travel beyond your local area if this is important to your health. See point 15 of the Government Guidance
National Autistic Society have released this article about the guidance

Yes, the SEND Tribunal has confirmed that hearings will be on paper or by telephone (and, where the technology permits, by video).

The Tribunal have asked families not to call the Tribunal until 2 days before hearings if they haven’t heard anything as, like every public service, they are affected by staff shortages as a result of COVID-19.

A barrister from Landmark Chambers has written a blog about his experiences of a video hearing and a SENDIASS advisor has written some tips for parents based on their experience of a video hearing:

Further guidance on joining telephone and video hearings

  • Check the link to access the hearing in plenty of time, as links may change
  • Make sure that you have your microphone and camera on
  • A member of the Tribunal team checks everyone in and checks that they can be seen and heard clearly
  • On the left-hand side of the screen there is a list of who is logged in and a live chat where messages can be sent throughout the hearing
  • A phone number is displayed in this live chat, if your microphone fails, you leave the camera on and phone the number for the audio
  • It is important to have your microphone muted throughout the hearing; you only unmute when it is your turn to speak
  • The hearing was run by the Judge in the same way as if we were in court
  • There are regular breaks, at this point you disconnect and are given a time to reconnect, you do this in the same way as when you initially connected
  • As you re-connect, you are asked for a pin number, you do not need to enter anything, the Tribunal can see that you are waiting in the 'lobby' and will allow you to re-join
  • SENDIASS advisors usually confer with parents in court, this is still possible via email throughout and telephone conversations during the breaks
  • If you haven’t got the bundle or paperwork printed off, I suggest having all the documents open at the bottom of your screen so you can keep opening them when needed

At the moment we can not say when children will be returning to school, so this makes it difficult to prepare for. In the meantime, some schools are maintaining contact with their pupils through email, newsletters and other forms of social media.

It might also be useful to maintain your child’s routine wherever possible in terms of lessons/activities by following a school day routine. It is also important to maintain a conversation about school and if possible, you could show your child photos of school or walk past it on your daily exercise walks.  

To find out about support visit Herefordshire coronavirus update page (opens in a new window).

Worcestershire have the Here 2 Help website (opens in a new window) set up specifically to support people during the COVID-19 outbreak. This website covers all aspects of support. For SEND specific information and advice there is also a COVID-19 specific support page on the Worcestershire Local Offer (opens in a new window). 

For further information regarding SEND during the COVID-19 outbreak Contact for families with disabled children, The Council for Disabled Children and IPSEA all have information, support and guidance on their websites.

If you have further questions regarding SEND you can contact us at HW SENDIASS to speak to one of our advisors. 

On 1st May 2020 the government 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.

Changes include

  • The duty on local authorities or health commissioning bodies to secure or arrange the special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with EHC plans 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 timescales are replaced with a duty to complete the relevant action as “soon as reasonably practicable”.

The guidance provides a summary of these legislative changes and sets out the key implications. It also confirms which key elements of the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans are unchanged.

You can discuss your options with the Local Authority. Both Herefordshire and Worcestershire are posting up to date information on their websites.

CAMHS Worcestershire have released this statement on their website:

“We are currently reviewing how we safely support our patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Government are asking everyone to be vigilant to try to delay the spread of the virus. In response to this we have made the decision to where appropriate move to telephone or teleconferencing in place of face to face appointments. From the 23rd of March we will be moving to a telephone-based system, this means that our clinicians will consult with referrers and families over the phone.

You may receive a phone call from our CAMHS service which will be from a withheld number; we encourage you to answer the call to facilitate timely assessments and/or treatment.

We are working hard to make sure that wherever possible all aspects of the CAMHS provision is continuing to be delivered. We are having to be creative and use means of communication other than face to face, except in exceptional circumstances, in order to prioritise safety. This includes R4W, CAST and specialist CAMHS.

The service, along with our IT colleagues, are working hard to implement the digital provision so as that ‘virtual’ groups and 1:1 work can be included in the offer.

Below is a list of our current social media platforms which we are posting regular information on Twitter

  • R4W - @WHCT_R4W

Parents and Young People who are currently open to CAMHS can contact us for additional support and advise in the event of a deterioration in the young person’s mental health.”

You can contact CAMHS Herefordshire (opens in a new window) to discuss how they are delivering their service during the COVID-19 outbreak.

You can contact the Umbrella Pathway (opens in a new window) to discuss how they are delivering their service during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Over the phone consultations are available from your GP.  Pharmacies should be able to deliver medication.

You can Contact your child’s school, provider or Local Authority to discuss how the programmes could be delivered safely. It could be for example, that the provider is able to compile a programme of exercises to be performed at home.

Contact your caseworker at the Local Authority to ask for guidance. In the absence of a physical school visit you can look at websites and read Ofsted information online.

Contact your caseworker at the Local Authority to discuss an appropriate timeline and confirm this with them via email. Save the email for your records.