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You can follow service updates to all Hertfordshire County Council services (including libraries and schools) on their Coronavirus service updates page.

An update from The Children and Young People's Integrated Therapies Service

9 September, 10am

Our therapy staff have now returned from their redeployed roles and can now contact more families and offer more appointments. Along with the Advice Line they are delivering support in an number of ways, including virtually.

Visit the HCT website to see more about what Integrated Therapies are delivering.

Advice Line: 01992 823 093

Please leave a message and a therapist will contact you.

Information about home to school transport from September


17.08.2020

The transport team recently emailed all schools and parents of children who are entitled to home to school transport to let them know what to expect for the return to school.

  • All transport will run as normal from September, including taxis and minibuses to special schools.
  • Social distancing is not required, but if your child attends a special school your transport provider will contact you about the safety measures they've put in place to maximise pupil safety.
  • If you would prefer to take your child to school yourself, the transport team are still offering personal transport budgets, which covers 4 daily home to school car journeys at 45p per mile. Equally, if you have been receiving a personal transport budget but would like to return to arranged transport, you are welcome to request this. There may be a slight period of notice needed to set up your transport.
Email schooltransport@hertfordshire.gov.uk with any questions or for more information about personal transport budgets.

Advice for children and young people about returning to school if you have been shielding

30.06.2020, 4pm

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has created some category guidelines to help you decide whether your child or young person should go back to school after they have been shielding.

Those who should not return to school

Your child or young person should not return to school, even if their year group has, if they are determined to be ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. This decision would have been made when shielding began and more information including the shielded patient list can be found on the NHS Digital Website.

Those who can consider returning to school

If your child or young person is under the care of a specialist consultant for an underlying health condition, you may wish to speak to their treating teams about the possibility of returning to school. Treating teams can help balance the potential risks and any anxiety you may have around the return to school.

Those who no longer need to shield and can return to school

If your child or young people is cared for just by their GP, they are very unlikely to need to continue to shield and are overwhelmingly likely to benefit from returning to school when their year group does.

Covid Summer Food Fund

29 June 2020, 12pm

The Covid Summer Food Fund will provide support for children who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals (FSM), over the summer holidays.

Please also note the temporary extension of free school meals.

If you are eligible:

  • If your child or young person is eligible for free school meals, you will receive a £90 voucher to cover the summer holiday period.
  • Schools must order the voucher at least one week before the school term ends and it will be issued to families within seven days, unless a specified distribution date has been agreed for a date in the future.
  • We recognise a single £90 voucher may not be suitable for all families, so schools have the discretion to schedule a number of smaller vouchers instead.

More information on vouchers and eCodes

In all circumstances, a voucher must be issued to the family before the end of the school term. This will enable staff to identify if a family hasn’t received their eCode and resolve the issue before the holidays begin.

If smaller vouchers have been scheduled, the last of these must be delivered by 14th August.

We encourage schools to use the Edenred system where possible. Many schools are familiar with the system and the process of converting eCodes to eGift cards, but it is worth noting:

  • The eCode must be redeemed into an eGift card before it is used in store, and Edenred have developed a visual guide to support schools and families through this process.
  • Schools should take particular care if emailing the eCode to the family directly from the Edenred system. If they enter an incorrect email address, they will need to cancel the eCode and order a new one.
  • Some supermarkets have a maximum limit of £200 for each eGift card (full details on Page 13 of the admin user guide), so schools should order separate eCodes for families with more than 2 eligible children.

Face Covering Exemption Cards

19 June, 4pm

Face coverings have now become compulsory when using public transport, and in a number of public settings, to help keep yourself and others safe during the Coronavirus pandemic.

If you have a health problem or disability and are unable to wear a face covering, you can download or print one of our exemption cards.

Offer of mileage reimbursement from the SEND Transport Team

For the past 10 weeks we have been transporting vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers to school and doing our best to ensure appropriate social distancing. Now that more children are returning to school this will become more of a challenge.

If your children have an EHCP and are entitled to home to school transport, you might have concerns about their transport, especially if they travel with others in a taxi, small vehicle or minibus, where it is hard to maintain social distancing. As an alternative, we would like to offer you mileage reimbursement, if you would prefer to transport your own children to school. We pay reimbursement at a rate of 0.45p per mile for 4 journeys per day (to school in the morning and home in the afternoon). We will calculate the mileage of your journey along public roads from your home to your school.

How will I know if/ when my child is going back to school?

On 11 May the government announced that schools would be opening for nursery aged children, reception, year 1 and year 6 on 1 June. Children with EHCPs are also expected to start to return to school. However, it won't be possible for most schools to have all of their pupils back full time and all at once by this date. Your school will let you know their individual plan for returning pupils to the classroom between now and 1 June. You should not take your child in to school until your school confirms you may do so.

Considering this offer and the next steps

We encourage you to seriously consider this offer and if it is possible for you, to take your own children to school.
If you would like to accept this offer of reimbursement please email the SEN Transport Team  - schooltransport@hertfordshire.gov.uk:

Child’s name
Date of birth
Address
School

Please title your email “Mileage Reimbursement”.
The team will respond and provide you with the necessary form to claim mileage.

Latest NHS hospital visitation guidance

16 June 2020, 4pm

The national suspension on visitation in hospitals and other healthcare settings has now been lifted by the NHS and new guidance has been issued in its place.

The new guidance provides advice on how different healthcare settings may approach visitation, whilst always bearing in mind the safety of patients, communities, individuals and teams.

Reasonable endeavours

Resonable endeavours has ended: this means that if you have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), you can expect to receive all of the support outlined in your plan again. The way that some of the support is delivered might still have changed a little from how it was in order to ensure everyone's safety.

Seeking urgent medical support if your child becomes unwell

It's important to seek urgent medical care if your child needs it. There is a lot of pressure to stay at home right now, but if your child becomes unwell and you feel they need urgent medical care, don't delay in getting help. Use your judgement and don't let symptoms worsen before you choose to get help.

If you have serious concerns about your child's health, contact your GP or go to the paediatric emergency department if it is needed.

This message is relevant to all families, and especially for those who have a child/ children with complex medical needs.

Together for Short Lives, a UK children's palliative care charity, has put together a statement over their concerns that families may be unsure about when to get help for their children during this time when we are advised to stay at home. They advise that in most cases, children with complex and life-limiting conditions are not at additional risk from COVID-19, however they may be at higher risk if they do not receive help for treatable complications of their underlying condition.

Dr Hilary Cass OBE, Chair of Together for Short Lives said:

“We know that everyone is trying to do the right thing by staying at home during the coronavirus crisis. However, we are very worried parents caring for children with life-limiting conditions might be too frightened to seek urgent medical help.

I’m sending a very clear message to every family caring for these children. You know your child better than anyone else, and if you think your child is unwell or deteriorating you must seek medical help. Doctors will want to make sure that your child is treated before their condition worsens. 

Whilst it’s vital that families seek help is their child becomes unwell, it’s important that people shouldn’t present at A&E with minor ailments."

Government to provide £37.3m in Funding for grants for low income SEND families

The Government today announced that the Family Fund will receive funding of £37.3m in 2020-21. This includes £10m which has been allocated to help families in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Family Fund provides grants to families on low incomes who have disabilities or severe medical conditions to help with the cost of equipment, goods or services - from washing machines and refrigerators to sensory and educational equipment that they might not otherwise be able to afford. The grants are typically worth £400 to £500 per family, but vary depending on need

Information about Direct Payments

The government has issued guidance for Direct Payment users and Personal Assistants; whilst this is written with a focus on adults, it is relevant to children too.

Our children and young people SEND brokerage team have created an FAQ to explain this guidance and to and reflect decisions made by Hertfordshire which may differ from the government guidance.

Benefits and financial advice for people affected by coronavirus

Hertfordshire County Council's Money Advice Unit has a factsheet on the financial and benefits aspects of coronavirus. For more updated factsheets on benefits for children with a disability, carers, PIP, etc, visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/benefits

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in schools and education settings and guidance from Public Health England

From 6 April we are delivering a Personal Protective Equipment pack to early years providers, schools and special schools who are providing care during the Easter holiday period. Education providers that are only open during term time will get a PPE pack delivery on the week beginning 27 April.

The PPE packs include:

  • 50 fluid resistant masks
  • 100 pairs gloves
  • 100 aprons
  • Roll of 50 clinical waste bags
  • 500ml bottle sanitiser
  • 5l disinfectant

We are also allocating PPE to these children's services and staff:

  • Children’s Services staff who need to deliver services directly to a child/ young person with a known case of COVID-19
  • Semi-independent provision for 16+ year olds
  • Residential provision
  • Two taxi companies who have agreed to transport children and young people who have symptoms of COVID-19

Thank you,

Sally Orr -Head of Family Support and Health Commissioning

What is the guidance from Public Health England (PHE)?

The current advice from Public Heath England for workers is that they don't require PPE if they work in a place with access to hand washing facilities, or hand sanitiser. The exception to this is if they are working with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, and they cannot undertake their work without keeping 2 metres away from them.

The way we allocate PPE is based on this guidance.

Statutory processes around Education, Health and Care Plans

EHCP timescales

We know how important the Needs assessment process is for families and so we are continuing to work within the statutory guidance during this crisis.

  • The Coronavirus Act 2020 (The Act) which became law on 25 March 2020 includes temporary emergency powers which allow for the modification of legal obligations imposed on local authorities in fulfilling their duties around EHCPs. These powers allow for the timescales for undertaking EHCP processes to be modified. These modifications will only apply if the Secretary of State for Education issues a notice in accordance with the Act. At the time of writing (7 April 2020) no notice has been issued and as such all of Hertfordshire County Council's legal obligations under the Children and Families Act 2014 remain in force.
  • We (Hertfordshire County Council) will not be making any "blanket" changes and will continue to work within the legal timescales for EHC needs assessments and plans.
  • However, we do expect that all of our teams have a reduced level of capability due to staff illness and/or redeployment to essential services; so some flexibility may be necessary in individual cases, and your child's SEND Officer/ team will be in contact with you if your child's case is affected.
  • Integrated Services for Learning and the 0 - 25 Together Service are working together to support the most vulnerable children and families through flexible arrangements. You can call Contact line in the first instance to learn more about this and get advice (Mon - Fri | 10am - 4.30pm: 01992 588 574).

If the Secretary of State issues a formal notice under the Act leading to a change in our current approach – we will of course keep you informed.

EHC assessments

  • Where new assessments are requested, we will request advice from our partner agencies as normal. It's important to understand, however, that at this time the information received back may be limited, or less detailed than we would usually expect - particularly health information due to the current pressures on our NHS colleagues.
  • We will continue to work towards completing the EHC process, making decisions based on the information that is currently available to us.
  • Some parents have asked us to 'pause' their statutory process. If you would prefer to 'pause' your statutory assessment too, please contact your SEND officer and let them know. We will record your request, and you can ask for the statutory process to be re-started at whatever point you wish to pick up again.
  • The SEND team are available by phone and you can contact your officer between 10am - 2pm Monday to Friday. 
  • Our Specialist Advisory Teachers and our Education Psychology colleagues will continue to write reports based on what they know of your child, and where possible, they will carry out assessments virtually, using video calls. The therapists are involved in front line support during this crisis, so existing reports will be used to inform plans. However, where a child is not known to services, this will be explained to parents, and where a report has been prepared using limited information, it will include a caveat to that effect. We will then continue to draft the plan and work to the normal 20 weeks statutory timelines - unless we are given permission from the government to pause the process.
  • In order to ensure you can contribute in person to the plan, we will hold planning meetings with you virtually, but this will be you and your family's choice.
  • KIDS SEN Mediation Service are currently using "Zoom” video conferencing for mediation video calls. In the event that it is necessary to have a case considered by the Tribunals – they will make the necessary arrangements, but you will need to have access to Microsoft Edge Internet browser.

Provision and reviews

  • Annual reviews will continue as planned where possible. Schools and colleges can use virtual tools to set up meetings. Your school or college will be in touch with you about reviews that are coming up.
  • If you would prefer to delay your annual review, you can do so by contacting your SEND officer. We will record this and you can ask for it to be re-started at whatever point you wish to pick up again.
  • For those who currently have EHC plans, there has been a process of identifying the most vulnerable children and working with schools and families to meet needs as far as possible.
  • If a plan has been agreed for your child and the final is sent out, we will continue to meet the needs as specified. If, however, the Secretary of State issues a notice under the Coronavirus Act 2020 this obligation will be reduced to one of "reasonable endeavours", which means that we will try our best to deliver the services specified, but it may not be practical to deliver everything.

Children moving school in September

We understand that it will be a particularly stressful time for you if your child is due to move schools in September.

  • Most children will have a school named for September in their EHC plan; and transition planning will start as usual for these children over the following terms. As we don't yet know how long children will be out of school, SEND management will continue monitoring the situation and you will be kept up to date as the transition nears. We have plans in place to ensure all children will have appropriate support through the time of transition.
  • If your child’s EHC plan does not have a school named for September, services will continue working with families on a case by case basis to make this happen, and you should expect to hear from your SEND officer over the coming term.

The SEND team are available by phone and you can contact your officer between 10am - 2pm Monday to Friday.

Ending a plan

The ceasing of plans, will follow the same process as always, ensuring provision going forward is the right provision in line with the work for Preparing for Adulthood. We have a contingency plan in place to ensure the transition to adult services continues.

Attendance advice from the Department for Education

In view of updated attendance advice from the Department for Education on 22nd March, Hertfordshire County Council has decided:

  • To suspend any penalty notice or prosecutions for Covid-19 related absence with immediate effect.
  • Not to take forward any new cases.

Attendance advice from the Department for Education published by Hertfordshire's Local Offer on 26.03.2020 read:

  • The Secretary of State has let schools know they will not be penalised for the impact on school attendance as a result of the Covid-19.
  • No absence data from the academic year 2019-20 will be published in the school and college performance tables.
  • The Secretary of State has written to Directors of Children's Services, to tell them that no parent should be penalised for their child's non-attendance due to Covid-19. In that letter, local authorities have been asked to suspend any penalty notice action or prosecutions for Covid-19 related absence with immediate effect. New cases should not be taken forward and any cases from 16th March should be withdrawn.

KIDS Hub

KIDS hub have stated:

"In line with current Government guidance aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, the KIDS Hubs will be closed to visitors until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes.

Although we’re not open to personal callers, the KIDS Hub service is not closed and as usual we are available to provide support and information to families with children and young people with SEND.

Our Toy and Equipment Library Stay and Play sessions will not be taking place but we will still be able to help with the lending or return of items.

If you would like to get in contact with us please email us at hub.herts@kids.org.uk"

HertsHelp

Our partners at Herts Help are coordinating support for all vulnerable people in the county who are struggling to get medication and food during the coronavirus outbreak.

This service will aim to help all people who are struggling, not just for those who are self-isolating. This includes families who are struggling because of the needs of their children – whether that be due to shielding a family member with underlying health needs, or due to a child’s unpredictable behaviours in public making it hard to ensure social distancing.

For any family who is worried about how they will get food or medication, they can contact Herts Help to discuss whether support can be made available.

HertsHelp

Contact Herts Help on: 0300 123 4044

or email info@hertshelp.net

SENDIASS

"We take the safety of our families, their children and young people, our staff and partners extremely seriously.

We will continue to deliver support to families during this time, however the way we do things will be different.
To reflect UK Government advice on social distancing, some of the ways we provide support will change:

  • Our staff are now working remotely: we are currently not offering face to face meetings with families, both in the community or at school.
  • SENDIASS will not be able to attend meetings until further notice. Wherever possible we will put alternative ways of working in place, and we will seek to hold virtual meetings instead of face to face.
  • As always, we are contactable by email or through our helpline to ensure that you still have access to the information, advice and support they require.

We will be posting any important information that our families may benefit from on our SENDIASS website as well as here on the Local Offer."

SENDIASS have made a short video to let you know that during this time they're still here.

Contact SENDIASS on:

sendiass@hertfordshire.gov.uk

01992 555 847

0 - 25 Together Service announcement

"Since the Prime Minister's announcement about the responsibilities of education providers to support the needs of children of keyworkers and learners who are vulnerable, we will be doing our best to work alongside them to help them meet these needs.

It is important for us to be honest about the fact that whilst we are here to help individuals and their parent/ carers, we may have less care capacity to offer. We will not be automatically implementing 'school or college holiday plans', particularly where homecare services might be expected. Each case will be considered in regard to risk, need and availability of service, and approved by a Team Manager.

We are allowing greater flexibility for those using direct payments, where no DBS check is needed. This means that parents can recruit more easily for the help that they need, perhaps where a young person is home from university for example. Brokerage will keep a record of costs linked to COVID-19.

We are also working to build capacity and new types of services, prioritising care for those with the most complex needs who don't have support from a family network. We are working through how we deal with scenarios where children with complex needs must be supported, should their parents become unwell or possibly worse. Our role in the coming days is therefore changing to become more focussed on urgent and crisis response.

Thank you all for your resilience and continued support."

Andy Lawrence, Head of 0 - 25 Together Service

Official guidance sent to Hertfordshire schools

Simon Newland, Operations Director for Education at Hertfordshire County Council, sent a message to Hertfordshire schools today in response to recent government guidance, stating: Workflow

  • Make parents aware of the guidance around keyworkers as a matter of urgency, so that those who are entitled to continuing provision are enabled to put their children forward.
  • Point parents to the part of the guidance which states: “If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.”
  • In plain language, the guidance reminds parents that children should seek to avoid extensive or close contact with their friends during the time schools are closed. I recognise how hard this will be. Please draw this to the attention of parents, and if appropriate you may be able to make the same point to pupils.
  • If you are a parent whose child is entitled to continued provision in school from Monday, but your usual school is closed, we will provide a list of exceptions and alternative arrangements on Sunday.

Hertfordshire school closures at the end of the school day on Friday 20 March

Hertfordshire County Council schools will be closing from the end of the day on Friday 20 March. However, if your child has a social worker, an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or you are a keyworker, your children will continue to be able to attend school. Arrangements for mainstream school can be found on Hertfordshire County Council's service updates webpage:

Special schools

We are working together with our special schools to continue provision for pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP). If you want to know if your school is staying open, we recommend you contact them directly.

 

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