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Temporary changes to Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans due to coronavirus

Here you will find information about our arrangements for Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

We thank you for your patience and understanding during these unprecedented times. We hope that the information below shows our determination to do our best to meet our duties in relation to EHC plans, in what are extraordinary circumstances. If you are affected by any of the changes outlined below, please contact us and we will do our best to resolve your issue. 

Not necessarily. 

Most recent guidance from Government has said that those with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans should be risk-assessed by the school or college. This should be in consultation with the us (the local authority) and parents. It will be decided whether they need to continue to be offered a school or college place to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home. This could include, where necessary, therapists or clinicians visiting the home to provide any essential services. 

Parents with children and young people with EHC plans, should contact their school or college to discuss arrangements for individual children and young people. Where children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home they should do.

The most recent guidance from Government states:

'Schools, colleges, other training providers and local authorities will need to consider the needs of all children and young people with an EHC plan, alongside the views of their parents, and make a risk assessment for each child or young person. They will need to consider a number of different risks to each individual, including:

  • The potential health risks to the individual from COVID-19, bearing in mind any underlying health conditions. This must be on an individual basis with advice from an appropriate health professional where required
  • The risk to the individual if some or all elements of their EHC plan cannot be delivered at all. And the risk if they cannot be delivered in the normal manner or in the usual setting
  • The ability of the individual’s parents or home to ensure their health and care needs can be met safely
  • The potential impact to the individual’s wellbeing of changes to routine or the way in which provision is delivered

'We expect most children will fall into the following categories:

  • Children and young people who would be at significant risk if their education, health and care provision and placement did not continue. Namely those who could not safely be supported at home. This may include those with profound and multiple learning difficulties, and those receiving significant levels of personal care support. Local authorities will need to work with the individual’s educational setting – especially residential special schools and colleges – as well as local health partners, to ensure they are able to remain open wherever possible. This may mean deploying staff from other schools, to keep staffing ratios safe
  • Children and young people whose needs can be met at home, namely those who are not receiving personal care from their educational setting, or whose limited need for personal care can be met in their family home. As part of the government’s emergency powers, we will modify the statutory duties on local authorities to maintain the precise provision in EHC plans. We will expect educational settings and local authorities to use their reasonable endeavours to support these children and their families.'
Government guidance is that, if your child can have their needs met at home safely, they should be at home. If your child has needs which cannot be met at home and your school has closed please contact us (the local authority) so that we can consider your situation and, where necessary, make alternative arrangements. 

We have been in contact with schools outside of Norfolk and schools where children board to understand the situation, but we know this is changing daily. As above, if your child is not able to attend their current school and you feel that their needs cannot be met at home, please contact us, so we can consider alternative arrangements. 

For children in 52-week placements, the needs of individual children will be risk assessed. We will work to maintain children’s placements wherever possible. Parents of children in 52-week placements should contact their child’s social worker about any concerns they have about arrangements that are in place.

We are working with trusts and schools to ensure the schools are kept open, but in some cases this will not be possible. It may not be possible for children to attend their usual school in order to ensure that children and staff are kept safe. Where a child cannot attend their usual school and cannot be kept safely at home, we will seek to make alternative arrangements. 
We have confirmed with providers, that existing arrangements in place will be honoured financially. Where provision can continue safely, we have requested that it does. Where provision cannot continue, we have asked providers to consider in discussion with families whether it can be delivered differently (i.e. in the home). Where provision cannot continue, we have asked providers to contact us. Again, if provision has ceased and you feel that your child’s needs cannot be met safely without it, please contact us so we can consider alternative arrangements. 

We are continuing to accept new requests for EHC needs assessments and wherever possible we will try ensure that the current situation with Covid-19 does not unduly delay our decision making or reduce quality. We will continue to request reports from professionals but we recognise that with school closures and the necessary safety precautions about social distancing there may be some delay and/or changes to how this advice and information is produced. We have introduced a range of alternative approaches through video/telephone consultations where possible and will use existing information about children and their special educational needs. Where the Covid-19 situation is impacting on our ability to progress your particular case, we will keep in touch with you to let you know what is happening.

More information about requesting an EHC needs assessment 

Yes EHC needs assessments will continue. However there will need to be changes to some standard working practices. Particularly those relating to advice and information from agencies and professionals. 

Educational psychologists with liaise with schools and families to agree the best way for advice and information to be done. Risk assessments will take place to see whether observations or child contact is needed. In most cases, this will be done by phone or using working technology rather than face to face. 

Advice and information from social care and health agencies will follow similar principles. Health and social care practitioners will consider the best way to provide advice and information, on a case by case basis. As NHS staff and our staff are prioritised to help with the Covid-19 outbreak, the capacity to produce advice and information will be compromised. We will work with all agencies to consider the impact of this in individual cases. We expect that the Government will relax timescales for EHC needs assessments. We are waiting updated guidance on this. 

The Government has said that if we have not yet issued an EHC plan, then they will not automatically be included in this group of children. However there is discretion locally to risk assess and offer support if that is needed. 

If your child is undergoing an EHC needs assessment and you feel that their needs cannot be met at home safely and they need to attend school, please contact us so that we can consider this further.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 permits the Secretary of State to temporarily disapply the legislation that requires Annual Reviews to be held within 12 months of the prior review. At present this has not yet been enacted. In the meantime, we are still required to undertake Annual Reviews in the usual way and to make decisions to maintain, amend or cease EHC plans or to reassess during this period

We are aware however, that schools’ and other settings’ ability to hold Annual Review meetings are currently very restricted. We also know families are juggling additional demands as more children are not going to school / education.

Where Annual Reviews are due, we will explore with settings and families the best way in which this can be delivered, considering personal circumstances and preferences. Where families would prefer that the Annual Review is postponed, we will do this. We will explore ways in which the Annual Review can be held remotely and how professionals can best contribute to the review.

Should the Government issue a notice to change legislation on Annual Reviews, we will continue to prioritise Annual Reviews for children transitioning from early years settings to schools, infant to junior school, junior and primary school to secondary school, secondary school to post-16 education or training, or between post-16 education and training.

The exceptions will be children and young people who will be subject to transfer of educational setting in September 2020 or September 2021.

September 2020: These cases will be prioritised to ensure that all children and young people have an identified onward setting for the following September where this is not already confirmed. In most cases, these annual reviews and amendments to EHC plans will already be underway or completed.

September 2021: These cases require an Annual Review in the summer term to ensure that their EHCP is updated in preparation for their next stage of education. These meetings can be undertaken virtually and should ensure that the EHCP is thoroughly reviewed and updated with advice from all relevant professionals.

With travel restricted, we are expecting fewer instances of children arriving in Norfolk with EHC plans from other parts of the country. However, this still may occur in some cases. 

Where children arrive to Norfolk with existing EHC plans, we will continue to follow the requirements set out in Sections 9.157-9.162 of the SEND Code of Practice. However, due to the emergency measures in place regarding the arrangement of schools locally, we will need to apply the principles set out in of 9.159 of the SEN Code of Practice (the school or educational establishment to be attended) flexibly.

We will, on the transfer of EHC plan, seek to review the plan within 12 months of the plan being previously reviewed, or within 3 months of the EHC plan being transferred (whichever is later). However this position will need to be kept under review, depending on the arrangements nationally in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Government has said:

“The Coronavirus Act 2020 allows the Secretary of State, where appropriate, to temporarily lift the statutory duty on local authorities to maintain the precise provision in EHC plans; with local authorities needing instead to apply ‘reasonable endeavours’ to support these children and their families. As such, where the Secretary of State has issued a temporary notice and a local authority is unable to secure the full range of provision stated in a plan, as long as they use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do this, they won’t be penalised for failing to meet the existing duty in section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014”.

As things stand, the Secretary of State has not yet issued a temporary notice but we are anticipating that this will happen in due course.

Arrangements for your child's EHCP will depend on their personal circumstances.
If your child is staying at home it may not be possible to organise the provision in the EHCP, particularly if it is delivered in the school or setting, (for example, small group work, 1:1 literacy interventions). In other cases things might be delivered a bit differently, as your child might attend a different setting or provision may be delivered remotely using video technology. This will also be the case for any social care or health provision also detailed in the EHCP. We know that schools and other settings are working creatively and flexibly with families of children with EHCPs. In all cases, the safety of children and families is paramount.

If you feel that your child’s needs cannot safely be met without continuation of, or different arrangements for, their EHCP provision, then do please contact us so we can consider this further.

We are committed to ensuring that children subject to a transition from one phase of education to another, have an identified onward setting in place for September 2020.

In most cases these arrangements have already been made and final EHC plans issued naming new settings for September. We are aware that individual schools will ordinarily undertake planned transition for some children. This involves trial visits, taster days, the arrangement of special facilities and equipment, and opportunities for children and families to meet and familiarise themselves with new settings and staff. With uncertainty around how long schools may be closed, transition planning in the usual way may be difficult. We would encourage families to talk to their current school, after the Easter break, to discuss what the transition arrangements to onward settings may look like, and how best this can be managed during this exceptional period. 

We will be suspending all arrangements for consulting with schools for new school placements, in all but the following cases: 

  • Where pupils do not currently have an allocated school place and are a child missing education
  • Where a young person is post-16 and is not in education, employment or training and wishes to return to education or training in September
  • Where a child is on roll at the Short Stay School for Norfolk or is waiting for an allocation of a place there
  • For Looked After Children
  • Whose current school place is at risk of breakdown and require a new school placement to be identified
  • For children subject to phase transfer, who require a new school placement to be determined for September 2020

We understand that for parents of children not in these groups, and the children themselves, this may cause concern and we are very sorry for this. However, with the emergency measures nationally, there is no absolute ability for any school that is named in a child’s EHC plan to admit the child to their school or setting. We believe that by prioritising the above groups we are safeguarding the educational future of those who, without ongoing coordination and action, may not have an identified school place when educational establishments resume normal operations. The position regarding consulting for new school placements for children with existing school placements will be kept under review. We will resume the active process of consultation and determining schools and settings to be named in EHC plans for all children and young people, at the earliest opportunity. 

It is our current understanding that the SEND tribunal system is operating under normal practices. There has been no guidance or statement issued to confirm that SEND tribunals will not continue to be accepted at this time.

At the time of publication, there is no confirmation that appeals have been suspended or altered. Further guidance relating to overall court and tribunal priorities in response to the Covid-19 outbreakAgain, there is no information to confirm any change to existing arrangements. 

As things stand, we are continuing to receive correspondence and orders from the SEND tribunal system. We are working hard to comply with their requests for existing tribunals, to the best of our capability in the current circumstances. We acknowledge that this published information will relate to or have an impact on parents seeking to lodge a case to the SEND tribunal. Parents would benefit from seeking independent advice and information. This is available from a range of sources and can be found on Norfolk’s SEND Local Offer

Our mediation and disagreement resolution service remains operational.

The majority of mediators are fully trained in using virtual platforms (such as Business Skype or Zoom) to conduct mediation meetings, and where parents and carers or young people are not comfortable with this, alternatives such as telephone conference or shuttle mediation (where mediators communicates with parties in turn) will be explored.

Further information on the service and how to access it is available via our Mediation and tribunals page



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