The Department for Education (DfE) yesterday published guidance on temporary changes to education, health and care legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
In their news article about this new guidance, Contact describes the following two main changes:
- Education and health support set out for a child with special educational needs (SEN) in an EHC plan, may be different for a period of time. Local authorities and health providers will have to use “reasonable endeavours” to secure this support. This means that they do not have to do exactly what is detailed in the EHC plan if this is not possible during the Coronavirus outbreak. However they should try other ways of providing the support. For example, your child may be offered help virtually over the phone or online rather than face to face. This legal change will take place on May 1, 2020 and will be reviewed monthly.
- Legal timescales for various EHC processes, for example: considering EHC assessment requests, issuing EHC plans and holding annual reviews, will be relaxed. Local authorities, health care professionals and others will instead be required to act as soon as they reasonably can. These changes currently last until 25th September and will be kept under review. (See Annex A: details of the amendments to the existing Regulations)
Below is a joint ministerial letter from Minister Vicky Ford, Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, and Minister Helen Whately, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Care, to children and young people with SEND and their parents and carers (click to enlarge the images):
The National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF) have been working with the Department for Education and other stakeholders in the sector to ensure that the changes protect the key principles of the Children and Families Act. Most notably:
- Coproduction with individual families and with parent carer forums at a strategic level remains of paramount importance
- Any changes to provision must be explained to families and options discussed with families
- Clear records of the decision kept and why it was made with a clear requirement to reinstate the provision as soon as possible
Any dilution of the rights of families is a concern and we will continue to work with the Department for Education to review these easements and we will be seeking for them to be lifted as soon as possible.
– NNPCF, “Coronavirus Act SEND Easements“