Our Voice

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05-08-2020 Coronavirus Guidance and news

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. 

The key government guidance is here. This is updated on a regular basis, including the FAQs which give more information on what you can and cannot do at the current time. 

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.

If you have questions about your benefits or finances please see the factsheet here. Guidance regarding support from electricity and gas suppliers is here

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. 

Useful guidance aimed at parents and carers has also been supplied by Carers UK here and Wellchild here.

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. 

School attendance

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.