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COVID-19 Temporary changes to the law regarding EHC from 30.6.20

Updated 30.6.20

Temporary changes to SEND law

The Secretary of State has issued a notice to extend the temporary changes to the law on what provision has to be made currently for those with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. The temporary changes to the law have been in force since 1 May and are now extended to 31 July. Once the notice expires, the Secretary of State can issue a further notice for a period of up to a month if it would be appropriate and proportionate to do so in the context of coronavirus. We will keep this under close review. We have also taken the opportunity to publish a minor update to Changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus

Updated 27.5.20 :

Letter to Schools and Hounslow Guidance for Professionals regarding the changes to the Law

The government announced on Thursday 30th April 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

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://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letter-from-the-secretary-of-state-to-local-authorities

Hounslow SENDIASS have made a factsheet about the changes

Therapies and Paediatricians:

Health Professionals will contact parents and schools and take as detailed a case history and profile of strengths and needs as possible over the phone.  No face to face assessments will be completed.  However, observations may occur over WhatsApp if this is feasible.  Health professionals will refer to their electronic system to ensure they include any existing information about your child or young person.  Only information obtained in the last year will be used with regards to strengths and needs.    

In section B of the EHC Needs Assessment, health professionals outline strengths and needs related to educational needs.  Under the current circumstances (Covid-19 pandemic) it is not possible to complete face to face assessments or complete assessments in schools and therefore the quality of advice which health professionals provide will be affected by this. 

Where health professionals deem they have sufficient up to date information about a child or young person, provision will be quantified.  However, where thorough assessments have not been able to be completed it will not be possible to quantify hours at this stage.  The advice produced will be based on information and contacts available at the time. 

With regards to therapy provision:

  1. All Spot Commissioned therapy to mainstream schools will stop from 3rd April 2020.
  2. Education Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists will be providing specialist settings with:
  • Regular liaison with school staff and access for them to contact therapists via email / phone
  • Advice for parents / families following telephone (WhatsApp) reviews / discussions
  • Occupational Therapists to attend schools if issues are urgent around seating (with Physiotherapists) / positioning (with Physiotherapist) / hand splinting / sensory processing (where it is impacting on behaviour and staff safety )
  • Speech and Language Therapists to attend schools if issues are urgent around communication impacting on behaviour and staff safety

CAMHS:

The ability to fulfil EHC Needs Assessment requests will depend on the status of the CAMHS service at the time the request comes in.  Business continuity measures and staff redeployment are being put in place in light of the need to focus on managing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

As of 30th March, all requests to CAMHS will be prioritised based on clinical needs and in light of the impact of the current epidemic on service organisation. However, the child and adolescent mental health services will continue to receive referrals by email and their duty lines are open as usual, manned by a rotating core team. The primary focus of these services has to be on ensuring that there is capacity to prioritise and meet the demands of the most urgent or pressing cases and to deliver essential care and treatment.

Provision in EHCPs

In effect, the legislative changes announced on 30th April 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus, may mean that the process and provision in place in EHCPs previously, is likely to change for the time being. Where alternative provision is offered , this will replace provision outlined in EHC plans which cannot reasonably be delivered within the current circumstances. Once services return to normal there will not be any additional capacity to replace sessions that have not taken place over this time.   

In making decisions about provision in EHCPs consideration will be given to: the specific local circumstances, e.g. temporary closures of education settings;  workforce capacity and skills and that of others whose input is needed; guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus; staying at home etc

  • the needs of and specific circumstances affecting the child or young person; and
  • the views of the child, young person and their parents over what provision might be appropriate.

Alternative arrangements may include:

  • Specialist SEN Teachers providing advice and support to parents re autism, visual or hearing impairment or literacy.
  • A speech and language therapist  delivering sessions via video link.
  • An occupational therapist video linking to a child’s home and modelling exercises that the parents could do with their child
  • The parent and child travelling to receive the therapy at suitable premises, where this can be done in ways consistent with guidance on reducing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Occupational therapists providing webinars for school staff on topics such as sensory strategies or pre-writing skills, or a teletherapy service
  • Sending home accessible hard copy therapy programmes with additional phone support for parents and young persons to help them work through them
  • Counselling, or cognitive behaviour therapy, delivered over the phone once a week for 6 weeks by a mental health worker