Brighton & Hove’s SEN Team created the following letter in response to issues raised with PaCC and Amaze around communications with parent carers during Covid-19.
“The current and ongoing response to the Covid-19 situation is causing many ongoing challenges and difficulties for families in Brighton and Hove.
In the SEN Team, we understand that many of these difficulties have disproportionately affected SEND families.
Brighton and Hove city council teams are all working towards delivering the most effective services possible during these unprecedented times. In the SEN team we want to share how we are addressing current difficulties.
Communications with the SEN Team
Whilst the SEN Team aims to respond to enquiries as soon as possible, we work to the council-wide communication standard, whereby we commit to responding within 10 working days. Where we are not able to send a full response within that time, we will let you know.
The SEN Team staff have been working from home since March 2020. Not being located together creates additional complexity in casework and communications, including a significant increase in the number of emails the team is receiving daily. Unfortunately, this has meant that in some, messages from parents have been missed. We apologise for this and are looking at ways in which we can organise our incoming messages to minimise the chances of this happening in future. We continue to reflect upon our systems and processes and seek out ways to further improve effective ways of working and we welcome your feedback.
Timescales for statutory assessment requests continue in line with the SEN code of practice, we outline the statutory timescales below:
- Where an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) is requested, we must decide whether to agree to an assessment or not within 6 weeks of the request
- Where an EHCNA is agreed, assessments must be completed and communicated to the SEN Team within 6 weeks of the decision to assess
- Where a decision is taken to issue an EHC plan following an EHCNA, a draft plan will be prepared and sent out to allow for the remaining steps in the process to be completed within the overall timescale
- Parents, carers and/or young people will be given at least 15 calendar days to make comments on a draft EHC plan produced
- EHC plans must be issued within 20 weeks of the initial request for an EHCNA being received unless allowable exceptions apply
Delivery of provision in EHC Plans and school staff training
The provision set out in an EHCP is important. Whilst most schools and colleges have been able to continue to deliver the range of provision their children and young people need, the restrictions arising from the Covid situation are causing some problems in the delivery of all provisions. Some of this is related to children and staff needing to stay in their ‘bubbles’ at all times during the school day including staff breaks, and the need for some staff to be isolating or being ill themselves. Where it is possible, schools and colleges are creatively problem-solving these situations but we recognise that some issues exist. Good communication between school staff and parent carers is important so families understand the issues and how they are being addressed where possible.
Some parents have said they are worried that schools and colleges are spending money meant to support students with SEND on other things. If you have a concern that this might be the case, you should first raise it with the school or college directly either via the teacher or special needs specialist. If you continue to be worried about the provision that your child is receiving after speaking to them, you should contact the SEN Team who can investigate the matter further.
Parent carers’ have asked how training for school staff is happening during Covid restriction. BHISS training continues citywide and where a particular topic may be scheduled to be delivered at a particular time in the year, schools are also able to request their BHISS link professionals deliver training and workshops for the school staff as part of their INSET days and this can reach many staff in the school. During covid-19, some schools have opted for booking smaller group workshops for key staff working with vulnerable learners to support their interventions and inclusive practice.
As part of this approach, schools and colleges have worked hard to upskill their staff, so they as professionals are able to take on more roles and offer more support than they have previously.
Further advice and support
If you would like further information on any issues relating to EHC assessment, plans or schooling, please contact your SEN Casework Officer.
If you would like independent support or advice about any matters to do with SEND, then you can contact the Special Educational Needs Independent Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) which is part of Amaze. They provide impartial help and advice.
The SENDIASS helpline number 01273 772289 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The national charity Contact also offers SENDIASS support via its website and on its telephone helpline on 0808 808 3555.”