Many parents and carers will have concerns about the Coronavirus outbreak, particularly anyone who has a child with additional health needs.
Below we have pulled together some key sources of information and suggested some additional points that you may want to think about.
From 24th July, there is a requirement for most people to wear face-coverings in shops as well as on public transport - see government guidance here. However, there are exemptions to these rules including for children under 11, and those children and adults who are unable to wear a face-covering because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability, or if doing so will cause you severe distress, or if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip-reading - see the government guidance here. You may find it useful to carry a card explaining why you or your child cannot wear a mask, although there is no requirement for you to do so and it is a matter of personal choice. There are some versions here that you can download for use, as well as an easy-read explanation of the guidance that might be useful e.g. when explaining the situation to a child or a young person with learning difficulties, or you can use the versions provided on the government website here.
On 30th April, the government announced temporary changes to the law regarding EHCPs during the Coronavirus pandemic. You can see the details in a letter to parents issued by the DfE and DHSC here. For more detail see the Contact website here and the NNPCF statement here. On 29th May the DfE announced that they intended to extend the temporary changes until 30th June, and at the end of this period will decide whether to extend for a further period of up to a month. The two main provisions are that:
- Education and Health support for a child set out in their EHCPs may be different for a period of time may be different and LAs and Health providers have to use their 'reasonable endeavours' to provide support. This means that they do not have to provide exactly what is set out in the plan if this is not practicable but they should try to find other ways to provide support e.g. over the phone.
- Legal timescales for EHCPs and Annual reviews are relaxed - LAs need to act as soon as they reasonably can.
Our Voice is in regular discussions with the Local Authority and Health about how provision is given and families are supported during this time. We asked Gillian Douglas, current Head of SEN and Curriculum Inclusion, to update us on the impact of the temporary changes to the EHCP legislation - you can see her statement here.
The Local Authority has added a 'guidance for parents and carers' section to its 'Enfield's response to Coronavirus' information, including guidance on how to support your child and talk to them about what is happening.
Whilst Coronavirus is infectious to children it is rarely serious. If your child becomes ill during this period it is likely that it will be a non-coronavirus illness. Whilst it is important to follow the government stay-at-home advice, it can be confusing to know what to do if your child is ill or injured. See here for a useful summary.
Contact, the Charity for families of disabled children have put together some useful advice for parents and carers which you can access via their website here. The Council for Disabled Children also has a useful page summarising the key sources of information here.
If you think you need support e.g. with picking up shopping, prescriptions or medicine whilst you are self-isolating, or you are in financial hardship please complete the Community Support request form here (local link) and you can also register here if you or your child/family member/person you care for at home has a condition that makes you/them especially vulnerable. If you are not sure whether your/their medical condition makes you/them especially vulnerable, please register anyway.
You will probably have seen that the government has announced plans to fully re-open schools in September, and has provided updated guidance on how this is expected to work.
You can see a useful summary of the key points on the NNPCF (National Network of Parent Carer Forums) website here. Some of the key points are:
- Limits on group sizes will be lifted to allow schools to open at full capacity and children to return full-time
- Schools and colleges will deliver their full curriculum ahead of exams next summer
- Limits on nursery group sizes will be lifted from 20th July
- Covid-19 secure measures to remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission e.g. regular cleaning and frequent hand-washing, schools being asked to keep children in class or year-sized bubbles, and children will be asked to self-isolate at home when necessary
- The information also sets out what will happen in the event of Coronavirus cases arising at a school.
The NNPCF have responded to the announcements setting out key issues and concerns relating to the impact on children with Special Needs and Disabilities - see their response here.
Detailed guidance has been provided including guidance for schools, guidance for special schools, updated guidance for Further Education providers and guidance for Early Years settings and childcare providers.
Please continue to share your concerns and experiences with us so that we can feed them back to the government and Local Authority as appropriate.
NHS Guidance on Coronavirus can be found here.
The Healthwatch website has useful advice on the current position in the local area (and more broadly) including visiting restrictions in local hospitals and guidance on how to self-isolate.
Pets: although there is no evidence that pets can get sick from Coronavirus, it is believed that the virus could be transferred on pets' fur from one human to another so it is important to take appropriate precautions - see advice from the RSPCA and government advice.
Talking to your child about Coronavirus - see our separate news page here for useful links and resources.
Other Guidance available:
National Autistic society guidance and helpline for parents, young people and staff
See also this guidance in British Sign Language.
Amaze have produced a set of useful FAQs relating to children with SEND - although this aimed at the families of children in Brighton and Hove, much of it is applicable to children in the Borough of Enfield.
If you are worried about your child's health (for example if they have a health condition which makes them particularly vulnerable) and the fact they are still attending school, do talk to your SENCo or School Head about this. We are sure they will be sympathetic and understanding given the circumstances.
Going to Hospital
The children and young people's emergency department at Barnet Hospital is currently closed and diverted to North Middx Hospital for London residents and Watford General for Hertfordshire residents. See the Barnet hospital website for more information.
In general, visiting someone in hospital is currently suspended. There are a small number of exceptions, when one visitor per patient may be allowed, which include a parent or appropriate adult visiting their child, or supporting someone with a mental health condition such as a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed. You should contact the ward in advance to discuss arrangements. See here for more information and check the website of the hospital you are planning to visit - e.g. Barnet hospital and Chase Farm Hospital here and North Middx here.
Going to the Doctors
Many GP surgeries are restricting or ceasing face-to-face appointments so it is recommended that you ring your surgery to discuss any issues.
Enfield Carers' Centre
Enfield Carers' Centre is currently closed for face-to-face visits, but you can still receive advice by phone and support groups will continue to run using teleconferencing facilities. More information can be found here.
Staying at home (self-isolation)
Government advice on what to do if you need to stay at home - overview here.
More detailed guidance here.
Preparing to stay at home
You may find it useful to make some additional preparations in case you find you need to self-isolate at home and/or you or your child become ill.
- If your child has ongoing medication consider asking your GP/pharmacy for an additional supply of any repeat prescription to cover for a month or two.
- If your child uses nappies or incontinence pads, you should look at whether you can obtain a supply to last for a longer period.
- If you don't have a medical plan at home, ensure that your child's latest prescription is ready.
- Look at options for getting prescriptions delivered to your home.
- Look at what options you might have for childcare if you or your regular carers get sick or need to self-isolate (e.g. if you normally rely on your child's grandparents for care).
Instructions for alternative carers
If you are normally the primary carer for your child, it is important to make sure that your alternative care (i.e. partner, family or friends) know in advance any special arrangements for looking after your child if you get sick (and/or have written instructions ready) - you may not be up to explaining all the details if you are ill.
- If your child has regular medication you could include details of when and how to give this medication. A useful template which you can adapt as required is available here, covering medication, allergies and other care (e.g. feeding, assistance with toileting etc).
- If your child has an EHCP, ensure that your section A is to hand to help others know about your child and how to support if you're unwell.
- If you don't have a section A, you could use a communication passport or hospital passport to help staff know your child's likes and dislikes. See the template here.
- You could complete a medication plan to help people know what medications your child is on. See the template here which you can adapt as required.
There is currently a requirement for most people to wear face-coverings in shops as well as on public transport - see government guidance here.
However, there are exemptions to these rules including for children under 11, and those children and adults who are unable to wear a face-covering because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability, or if doing so will cause you severe distress, or if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip-reading - see the government guidance here.
You may find it useful to carry a card explaining why you or your child cannot wear a mask, although there is no requirement for you to do so, and it is purely a matter of personal choice. You can see some options here which you can download for use, as well as an easy-read explanation of the guidance that might be useful e.g. when explaining the situation to a child or a young person with learning difficulties, or you can use the versions on the government website here.
Our Voice is in regular discussions with the Local Authority and Health about how the provision is given and families are supported during this time.
This page will be updated every few days with the latest developments. See our main Coronavirus news pages for a summary of advice over recent weeks:
General Coronavirus news - a summary of recent developments and guidance as they impact on families of children and young people with SEND, living in the Borough of Enfield.
Transition to homeschooling - advice on managing the change of routine, and some resources for home-schooling children with Special Needs and Disabilities
Talking to children and young people about Coronavirus - Easy read guidance and story-boards.
Anxiety and wellbeing - resources and support for parents and tools for children and young people.
Following our very popular Travel Assistance videoconference with the Transport team and SEN Travel Brokers, we have summarised the information from this session You can see the full Q&A here.
We were pleased to host a videoconference last week in association with Public Health, who updated parents and carers about the Coronavirus pandemic and answered our questions about what the situation is currently like in our area and how we and our children can stay safe.
All the questions and answers from the session are summarised here.
Our Voice hosted a videoconference on 9th July to discuss questions regarding Short Breaks and summer activities for children and young people with SEND. We were joined by a panel from the Joint Service for Disabled Children and Cheviots Children's Centre. You can now see the Q&A from this videoconference here. The document includes questions and answers about what support is available over the summer, along with useful contact points.
Now that the schools are closed, you may have concerns about the impact of this disruption on your children and be wondering how to help them adjust to the huge changes in their day to day routines for the immediate future.
If you would like help and support with supporting your child's learning at home, have concerns about their general learning, development or well-being, or need to access information and resources you can contact the Enfield Educational Psychology Service's Family Support Helpline. The helpline also provides advice regarding emotional wellbeing and mental health (your own or your child's), managing behaviour and sign-posting to other services.
The Enfield Educational Psychology service has produced useful guidance for Supporting your child at home during the lockdown.
This short film on the value of play from the British Psychology Society/ Division of Educational and Child Psychology looks at the importance of play and the way in which play helps children to manage their emotions and stress.
Managing the Transition to home-schooling is a useful document produced by the UCL's Centre for Inclusive Education which covers some of the issues you may be facing and gives guidance and tools for managing the changes with your child/children.
There is also useful information from the UCL's Centre for Inclusive Education here.
Resources for being at home with your children:
Below are a series of resources focusing on children with SEND that you may find useful for supporting home-schooling and for keeping your children entertained, calm and happy at home.
BBC Bitesize SEND toolkit has a wide range of useful resources for both learning and wellbeing, including music, fun activities, adapting physical activities, Makaton, BSL and supporting reading. There are a range of specific resources for children with specific special needs and disabilities including hearing impairments, visual impairments, Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Learning Disabilities.
Home Learning activities for children with Autism and/or Learning difficulties - these resources have been produced by Enfield Advisory Service for Autism in conjunction with Russet House school.
Useful Websites for Home Learning - this document has kindly been provided by a teacher and Behaviour lead at one of our local Special Schools.
There are some useful SEND specific resources (as well as a wide range of other materials) to support homeschooling on Twinkl which is free to use during the current school closures. You will need to sign up using the code UKTWINKLHELPS.
You can also find a range of other inclusive / SEND focused educational resources and activities for children on The Sensory Projects website.
Music Therapy Tree have provided accessible music therapy resources, suitable for children with autism and learning difficulties in the new Self-Isolation support area of their website.
Kids TV 123 - a YouTube channel with lots of educational songs e.g. numbers, phonics
GoNoodle - music and mindfulness
Cosmic Kids - Yoga and mindfulness for children
Stop Breathe Think - mindfulness and meditation for children
The Singing Walrus - fun educational songs with accompanying worksheets and flashcards
Just Dance - dance along to your favourite songs and follow the movements on the screen
Barefoot Books - animated singalongs and activity packs
The Learning station - 'brain break' action songs
Singing Hands on YouTube has videos of songs signed in Makaton, and will be doing live sessions at 10.30 daily from 6th April
PBS Kids Music Games - educational games and activities related to music.
imoves - a range of fun activities to keep children happy, healthy and focused including Worry Monster, Pilates and meditation for mental health and well-being
Tate Paint - a tablet-friendly online paint game
Bumble Bee Physio are offering live physio for children who are wheelchair users
Great Ormond Street The Power of Play has a range of fun games and activities provided by their team of play experts.
Primary Homework help is a collection of resources aligned to the National Curriculum which is useful for searching multiple activities on a specific topic.
Crickweb has educational interactive teaching resources and activities for primary level children - search by key stage and subject.
Contact has a range of suggested resources for children with SEND here, which they will keep updated on a regular basis.
If you have concerns about your child's online safety, see our list of useful sources of information here.
Our Voice are pleased to announce that our new 'Cuppa and Chat' sessions will be continuing across the summer.
The sessions will take place:
Tuesday evenings 8.30 - 9.30 pm - 14th July, 28th July, 4th August, 18th August and 1st September
Wednesday mornings 10.30 - 11.30 am 29th July, 12th August, 26th August and 9th September
These informal online sessions give parents and carers of children with Special Needs and Disabilities an opportunity to connect with others who may be facing similar challenges (including members of the Our Voice team), to share experiences and ask questions.
The sessions are completely informal so don't worry if you need to arrive late, start early, or face regular interruptions from your children.
For full details see our flyer here.
Our next exclusive Mr Marvel Zoom party will take place on Sunday 28th June 3 - 4 pm.
This is a great opportunity to provide some fun and entertainment for your children via Zoom. It's a live, interactive show containing a mix of magic, puppets, games, live animation and of course the real magic bunny.
Have a sneak peek here.
This event follows the success of our last Zoom party which was a huge hit with all the children. One parent said "I just wanted to say a big thank you to Our Voice for organising this afternoon's Mr Marvel Zoom. Our son absolutely loved it, listening to him laugh and chuckle at Mr Marvel's antics was so lovely".
The event is free but places must be pre-booked and are exclusive to Our Voice mailing list members. If you would like to join but are not already on our mailing list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, email address and telephone number, and ask to be added to our mailing list and receive details of how to book this event.
To help us support you and feed-back your concerns to the Local Authority Our Voice recently ran a survey to find out about parent/carers' biggest concerns during this difficult time. We focused on the issues around supporting your child's mental and emotional health and wellbeing and looking after your own mental health needs.
We had a great response to the survey, with some really revealing responses, showing how much pressure parents are under at this time. You can see a summary of the survey results here.
We have shared this report with key Department Heads at the Local Authority and Health, and are now using this as a basis for discussions on what they could be doing to support employees. It will also form a basis for our own planning on what we should do over the next 3 or 4 months.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond.
Our Voice has been flagging to the LA that parents and carers have particular concerns about the impact of the current lockdown on children with SEND who are due to transition to a new educational establishment this year (or leave education entirely), in many cases after the disruption of a prolonged absence from school, and potentially without a reasonable opportunity to achieve any kind of closure regarding their existing school. We were pleased to give parents' input (along with SENDIASS) to the Local Authority on parents' views and concerns about this issue.
This information was fed into guidance which has now been issued to schools across the Borough