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COVID-19 and EHC Plans Guidance for parents and carers

updated 01/04/2020

Following the announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson schools will remain open to provide childcare and support for vulnerable groups which may include some children with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan and complex medical needs.
We hope the following guidance may be helpful.

Requests for new EHC needs assessments
• We would urge you not to make a request for a new EHC needs assessment at this time.  We would also ask that you have a discussion about your concerns with your SENCO or you can contact the SENSAP team directly on 0113 378 5256 and a Casework Officer will discuss this with you. The quality of any assessment undertaken during this period of enforced social distancing will be severely impacted and unless absolutely vital we would urge you to resubmit your request when schools are open and social distancing directives have been relaxed.
If your child is part-way through an EHC Assessment:
• We will do our utmost to continue to meet the statutory deadlines set out in law.

This includes:
• Making a decision whether to proceed with an EHC assessment within 6 weeks of the date of the request where we have already received a request.
• Deciding whether to issue an EHC plan by week 16 of the EHC assessment.
• Finalising an EHC plan by the end of week 20 of the EHC assessment.

 

Following national guidance, we are limiting the amount of face-to-face contact made by our Educational Psychologists, specialist teaching teams, health and care workers. Consequently, if you are due an EHC assessment visit by one of these workers, it is likely they will contact you directly to discuss your situation and agree upon a suitable way forward.

 

Next Steps Meetings for new EHC needs assessments
• There is no statutory requirement to convene next steps meetings therefore all meetings are cancelled until further instructions are received from central government. You will however continue to be sent documents relating to EHC needs assessments so please respond in writing in line with the timescales set out in the covering letter.

• If we have already issued a Draft EHC plan, we would kindly ask that you respond in accordance with the deadline stated in the letter, so that we can try and move all cases on in a timely manner, to ensure that support is provided accordingly. Please email your response rather than post if possible to SENSAP@leeds.gov.uk

 

If your child has a Draft EHC Plan waiting to be made Final
• We are working hard to ensure all assessments which are ready to be finalised are completed.
• In many cases we have been able to finalise the EHC plan naming the school of parental preference, and in full agreement with the named school.
• In some cases we may have to take the pragmatic decision to name your child’s current school, even where this may not be the preferred setting, in order to ensure that you are able to access the right support during this uncertain time. In these situations we will consider your change of placement request once we have a clearer understanding of the circumstances regarding school closures. Please do contact us if you would like to discuss this further.

 

If your child already has an EHC Plan
• Many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home. Schools, colleges, other training providers and local authorities have been asked to consider the needs of all children and young people with an EHC plan, alongside the views of their parents, and make an assessment of risk for each child or young person. You should hear directly from your school and discuss with them what offer of support and care is available to them throughout the school closure period.
• As soon as further advice is provided by the Government, we will ensure that it is made available to all parents/carers of children, and young people with EHC Plans.

 

Pupils with EHC plans currently attending school during these time period
We have to remember that if at all possible children should stay at home. For those pupils who are attending school during this period, it is important to note that the school are not under a duty to provide the specialist provision set out in the child’s EHC plan and can only do what is reasonable at this critical time. Therefore the school and settings may not be able to deliver what is in a child’s EHC plan and they must consider if this also means that it would mean it would not be appropriate or safe for the child or young person to attend.

The school will make this decision with support from the LA where necessary. 

 

The Coronavirus Bill that was laid in parliament last week does enable the government to pass legislation that will provide powers to require educational institutions or childcare providers to stay open or relax some requirements around education legislation in order to help these institutions run effectively during the event of an emergency. This includes relaxing provisions for those with SEN (schedule 16, section 6).

The government is therefore working at the moment to amend these regulations to relax timescales where necessary during the pandemic. The overarching aim in doing so is to balance the needs of children and young people with SEND so they receive the support they need whilst managing the demands on local authorities, schools, colleges and health bodies to respond to COVID-19. There should be more information about this soon.

Thank you for all your support and effort at this difficult time, we know how much everyone is doing and we really appreciate it.

 

24 Mar 2020

Author
Val Waite
Children and Families Service Improvement Team
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