We asked participating organisations/teams in last month’s Virtual SEND Local Offer Drop-in to collate questions that parents asked them so we can share the information to more parents & carers.

Below are the questions that parents asked at the April SEND Drop-in (click or tap a question to view the answer):

“The Local Offer website contains loads of information relating to SEND in Manchester, including more timely information in relation to the current coronavirus situation.

Manchester City Council also has a dedicated section on its website for all things related to coronavirus, which includes health advice, information about money & benefits, help & support for those suffering domestic abuse, and many more.”

You can also loads of stuff on our own Coronavirus SEND Information Hub, including information & support available both locally and nationally.

“The following organisations may be able to help:

There’s also information on the Local Offer.”

Children on free school meals can still receive a meal or food voucher while schools are closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

This is what the government wrote on their guidance on free school meals:

The steps you take to support children at this time may be different depending on the individual circumstances of the school.

You might be able to provide eligible pupils not attending school with meals or food parcels through your current food provider.

Where this is not possible, the Department for Education (DfE) has developed a centrally-funded national voucher scheme to support schools with this process. This funding is additional to existing free school meal budgets. Schools will now have received an email from the Department’s supplier Edenred regarding how to access and administer the voucher scheme locally.

If the national voucher scheme is not suitable, you could consider providing alternative vouchers for a local shop or supermarket.

They also wrote this regarding children who are still currently attending school:

What about children who are attending school?

In the maintaining educational provision guidance, we ask schools to continue to provide care for a limited number of children, including those who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) response and cannot be safely cared for at home.

Where schools are open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, schools should continue to provide meals for pupils in attendance. Meals should be provided by the school and be free of charge for pupils who would normally receive free school meals, and schools have discretion as to whether they charge other pupils.

There’s additional information on the “Free School Meals and Support with Food” section of our Coronavirus SEND Info Hub.

We shared with the parent information about Variety, who earlier during the lockdown had a sensory kits scheme available nationally:

Thank you for reaching out but I’m sorry to hear about your son’s struggle.

We shared this information before about free sensory kits from Variety, the Children’s Charity, though it seems they have closed for new applications now.


They did share the following resources, which might be helpful for you:

– PodAbility, Variety’s podcast: “We are developing new episodes specific to the support parents of disabled children need in the current situation, starting with a discussion on how to support children’s sensory needs at home during lockdown which you can listen to now.”

– Variety’s guide to making your own sensory pack: “We will soon be launching this free guide with over 30 ideas for how to help your child at home if they are struggling to process their sensory inputs, are finding it difficult to concentrate, or have increased levels of anxiety.”

You may also be eligible to apply for funding for specialist equipment (including sensory equipment) through their usual grants programme, which you can find out about here: https://www.variety.org.uk/what-we-do/equipment-grants

We also shared information about the One Education helpline for Educational Psychology:

With regards to home education, you can phone the educational psychologists for support:


“We gave information and advice in line with the Education, Health & Care Plans & Other SEN Support page on the Local Offer, including a deeper explanation of statutory assessments.

For more information, you can also visit the IPSEA and Contact websites, which include answers to the following questions:

  • How does the EHC needs assessment process start?
  • What happens in an EHC needs assessment?
  • What if the local authority refuses to do an assessment?
  • What to do when you receive your draft EHC Plan
  • What to do when you receive your final EHC Plan
  • EHC needs assessment FAQ
“We signposted them to the SRT review morning.”

Here are the upcoming Short Breaks Review days for this month:

Please note that most of the answers above are information we pulled from various partners who participated at last month’s drop-in. We have put such answers within quotes (“”) to make it clear that the answers are not our own.

Where we put our own commentary in, we separated our answers using a horizontal line and our comments are in green text. This will be clear when you’re reading each FAQ item above.

We hope this helps. Any questions, please send us a message or contact Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Manchester or visit the SEND Local Offer.