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SEN | A week in Review 15th - 19th June 2020

We are currently coming towards the end of a SEND Tribunal Trial, which commenced in April 2018 and has already been extended once to August 2020. On 18 June 2020 Vicky Ford MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children and Families, confirmed that due to the coronavirus crisis, the trial will be extended until at least 31 August 2021. Before the trial, appeals to the SEND Tribunal could only consider special educational needs, provision and placement sections of an EHCP. Under the trial, the Tribunal also has the power to make non-binding recommendations about the health and social care needs and provision sections of EHC plans, which allows parents and young people the opportunity to raise all their concerns about a Plan in one place.

Judicial review proceedings have been issued against the Secretary of State for Education, in relation to both the modification of s42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (downgrading a duty to meet needs, to ‘reasonable endeavours’), and the relaxation of timescales concerning the planning and reviewing of EHC Plans. The challenge alleges that the Secretary of State failed to consult sufficiently before making those legal changes. It also alleges that it was irrational to decide that the changes were necessary and proportionate. We will be keeping a close eye on the progress of that case, and it will also be interesting to see whether the Secretary of State issues a further ‘notice’ in relation to the s42 duties for July (as a new notice has to be issued every month).

New legislation came into force this week concerning face coverings on public transport. However (and we think that there has been a failure to adequately consider this in much of the news coverage) there are lots of potential exemptions to this rule for children with SEND. All children under 11 are exempt from the rule. Anyone travelling on a school transport service is also exempt. As well as this, anyone who cannot wear a face covering because of any physical or mental illness, impairment or disability is exempt, as is anyone who would suffer severe distress from wearing a mask.

Yesterday (18 June 2020), the government updated its guidance on risk assessments for settings managing children and young people with EHCPs (which will include educational settings). The new guidance says that ultimately the decision is with you as the parent, not with the school. If your child’s school has decided that they do want to readmit your child, there are various ways in which this could be challenged and you should contact us for more information.

We have also been reflecting this week on some of the shocking statistics in a report released by the Disabled Children’s Partnership, who spoke to over 4000 parent carers about their experience of life during lockdown. The report can be found here The most shocking statistic in our eyes was that before lockdown only 38% of parent carers were getting support such as short breaks to help look after their disabled children. Of that 38%, 76% say that ALL support has been stopped since lockdown.

Undoubtedly this is incredibly difficult for so many families, and there have been some changes to the law during this crisis. However, much of the previous entitlement still exists. If you feel like you need support, please get in touch with a member of the team.  

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