The Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone’s daily lives and created serious challenges for local authorities and other public bodies to the extent they can carry out their statutory responsibilities and duties supporting children and young people with SEND. These duties still however, remain.
Many people who access local support services will be feeling overwhelmed and isolated with these services running at a severely reduced capacity due to sickness, self-isolation or caring responsibilities. During the pandemic, some provision (as set out in a plan) should still be made, but this may well not be in the same way as it did before to comply with government guidelines.
When the Secretary of State does give notice, it should be for the shortest time possible and will include the following:
- Attendance at school: Pupils should only attend school if they cannot be cared for at home. Having an Education, Health and Care Plan does not give a right to attend school, only those who cannot safely be at home (because of safeguarding, personal care needs, challenging behaviour or if the parents are key workers). Pupils who do go to school may not go to their normal school even if this is the one named in their plan (this is only for the duration of the notice given by the Secretary of State under the emergency legislation and does not change the placement set out in the plan in the long term).
- Reasonable Endeavours: The local authorities will have to make reasonable endeavours to carry out the provision in the EHC Plan. With people keeping in touch via video conferencing, this could possibly be an option for SALT (speech and language therapy) for example.
- Annual Reviews: The local authority will be able to postpone annual reviews.
- Statutory Assessment: Recent guidance suggests that the Government will change the timescales.