COVID-19: Key Information on SEND processes and pathways for parents, carers, and professionals
We know how important it is to remain in contact and provide updates at this uncertain time.
We have had several enquiries from parents and carers around timescales on the Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment and annual reviews. Please see our SEND service full statement for more information.
We have also received several questions from parents, carers, SNAP PCF and professionals regarding other SEND related processes and pathways. In conjunction with East London Foundation Trust (CAMHS), Carers in Bedfordshire, Bedfordshire Community Health Services and our teams, we have put together a SEND frequently asked questions document, which we will add to, as required.
The Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny meeting, planned for May 19, has been postponed due to the ongoing national emergency.
The committee meeting was scheduled to discuss ours and Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) joint written response to Ofsted’s inspection of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) services in Central Bedfordshire.
However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to hold public meetings with members of the public present in a meeting room, while Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have also suspended all deadlines until further notice.
Health colleagues have also been redeployed as part of the response to the current crisis, so are unable to contribute to the required written statement of action. We will continue to work on our part of this and will continue to implement planned improvements, while delivering critical SEND support and services.
For example, we are increasing the numbers of SEND officers from 6 to 12, we have started making progress on reducing the backlog of annual Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) reviews, which we are aiming to complete by the end of July, as well meeting the two statutory deadlines in February and March for the reviews which include school transfers.
We have established a bespoke special needs school cluster, as part of our Schools for the Future programme, and we will engage parents in co-producing the future for special needs education in Central Bedfordshire.
While we have had to cancel our public ‘Meet the Director’ sessions, we are currently working on a programme of webinars and surveys and then, when it becomes possible, we will arrange face-to-face meetings.
It is critical that families have the opportunity to share their thoughts, comments and suggestions on our written statement of action and we will keep you up-to-date with the revised written statement of action submission deadline.
Temporary changes to EHC needs process
The government has announced temporary changes to the law on education health and social care needs assessments and plans.
This came in to force from 1 May 2020.
Some of the law on EHC plans and needs assessments is temporarily changing to give local authorities, education settings and other partners who will contribute to these processes more flexibility in responding to the demand on us by COVID-19.
The Secretary of State for Education has issued a notice under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 – which is the duty to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with an 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.
You can also read the joint ministerial letter (PDF) 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.