Minister Ford’s Open Letter to the SEND Sector
In an open letter to children and young people with SEND, their parents/ carers, and families and all others who support them, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, stated that the Government’s aim for SEND, through the Coronavirus Bill and further proposed changes, is to balance the needs of this vulnerable group to receive the support they need with managing the demands on local authorities and health bodies to respond to this outbreak.
They have included in the Bill temporary emergency powers to enable them to modify the legal requirements on local authorities in fulfilling their duties in relation to EHC plans. This will mean that where a local authority is, because of the outbreak, unable, to put in place stated provision, they will need to use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do this, but won’t be penalised for failing to meet their duty as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. These emergency powers will only be in place for the shortest period, where necessary and will be regularly reviewed. The Government will also be seeking to amend regulations on the timescales for EHC plan processes where this is appropriate because of COVID19.
She encouraged them to -
- Keep up to date by regularly checking the gov.uk webpages and the DfE Coronavirus helpline information on the latest Government advice. (Tel: 0800 046 8687 between 8am-6pm Monday – Friday, and 10am – 4pm Saturday and Sunday).
- Check the websites and forums of the Council for Disabled Children and Contact and posting any questions and queries to keep lines of contact open
The Government published guidance about supporting vulnerable children on 22 March. It includes a number of frequently asked questions which can be accessed by visiting the Government website. They have also published new guidance that provides household isolation advice for children and young people who live in a residential setting, and the staff that support them.