Brighton & Hove coronavirus FAQs for parent carers of children with SEND

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the coronavirus for parent carers of children with SEND in BRIGHTON & HOVE

Amaze has worked with the local authority and health services to try and answer some of your most pressing questions about how the coronavirus outbreak may affect our families. We will continue to add to this list as we get more information or as circumstances change.

There is more information available from other sources now than when we started these FAQs but we are continuing to pick out the key bits for families in Brighton and Hove.

Brighton and Hove City Council have information about how their services are being affected on their website https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19

Education questions

Schools are shut, but I heard that some children can still go including children with EHCPs. Is that right? 

Schools, colleges and nurseries are closed until further notice for most children. The initial information was that schools should offer places in school for children of keyworkers, vulnerable children (e.g. who have social workers) and children with EHCPs. This was clarified in government guidance on 22.3.20. The advice now is that if you can keep your child at home you should. The fewer children who mix in school the safer for everyone.

Schools, nurseries and colleges have been asked to offer a form of care and education for the children who need this most based on a risk assessment for each child or young person.   This includes children of key workers who would otherwise be unable to carry out essential work (list of keyworkers in next question) and children whose care needs or home situation mean that it is safer for them to attend school than not. Having an EHCP does not necessarily mean your school will offer them a place in school, but it does mean your school should be considering them individually to identify if they need this..

Schools had to act quickly at first to work out who they should be trying to provide for, but they should be checking this again for the summer term. They will be contacting families to check information and do a risk assessment.

The government has particularly asked that Alternative Provision e.g. PRUs stay open as pupils there are likely to be particularly vulnerable even if they do not yet an EHCP.

If you want to read the government guidance for yourself it is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people

I’m not sure if I am counted as a key worker

The full list is available on the link below but includes staff who are essential in the effort to manage this crisis, including people working in the health and social care, education, key public services, utilities, financial and transportation services.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

How will my child’s school (special or mainstream) be able to look after my child if most of the children are staying at home, or if the teaching staff are unable to come in? 

Following the announcement, schools, colleges and local authorities have had to move quickly to work out how to offer care/education for the children they identify as needing to still attend. Schools have been contacting parents to say if you have the option to send your child in and what the offer for them may look like as it will not be their normal provision. If you have not heard from your school yet you should contact them.

The government announcement also stated “Where schools are unable to look after these children, local authorities will work with the Department for Education’s regional teams to ensure an alternative option is available in the same area.” We think this is likely to mean schools needing to work together across the city to develop an offer to these families, which is achievable and sustainable. This could look different to their normal provision – possibly in a different venue, with different teachers, and a revised timetable.

But don’t they have to still provide what it says in my child’s EHCP?

The government passed new legislation (19 March) in response to the outbreak. As a result, local authorities will need to use “reasonable endeavors” to ensure that provision continues to be available to meet education, health and care needs for each child and prioritise their efforts to support those with the most complex needs. If they can’t maintain the usual provision despite these efforts, they will not be breaching their legal responsibilities. In simple terms this means you can’t insist on what it says in the EHC plan at the moment, but the school and LA should be trying to make sure your child gets some input, working together with you if they are at home.

If I agree to my child having provision now that doesn’t match what it says in their EHCP will it stay like that when things get back to normal?

No. The government guidance is clear that parents who consent to changes to, or reductions in, their child’s provision during this outbreak will not be considered to have agreed a permanent change to what their child needs in their EHC plan.

What about school transport?

Local authorities must continue to ensure children are supported to get to school safely, so your child should still get transport if they did so before. Of course you may prefer not to use transport to reduce the number of different people your child mixes with at this time. If you did not have transport before but  your child has been moved to another school and this makes the journey more difficult you should ask about transport.

I don’t want my child with an EHCP to go to school, as they have a weakened immune system or for other reasons. Do they have to? 

If you feel it would be too high risk to send your child to school because they, or someone else in your family, is at particularly high risk, there is of course no requirement to send your child in.  The updated guidance from government is clear – if a vulnerable child can be at home, they should be. Your child’s school should carry out a risk assessment to see if they can offer your child some provision safely. Similarly if the kind of offer your child’s school is making for them is one that you feel will be too unsettling for them you can turn it down. The only parents who may not have a completely free choice whether or not to take up the offer for their child are those who have a social worker involved i.e. through a child protection plan and it is seen as being strongly in the child’s interests to go to school.

The guidance dated 19 March 2020 stated: “We recognise that children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) and their parents and carers are facing numerous challenges as a result of coronavirus. We are encouraging local authorities to keep open both residential special schools and residential specialist colleges wherever possible. In addition, we want to keep the majority of day special schools and colleges open, including moving staff into these settings to avoid closure.

Special schools, colleges and local authorities are advised to make case by case basis assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations of pupils and students on an education, health and care (EHC) plan. For some, they will be safer in an education provision. For others, they will be safer at home. We trust leaders and parents to make these decisions and will support them as required.”

For more details see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers

If my child has an EHCP can my paediatrician support me to decide if my child’s health profile is suitable for them to return to school? 

Ratna Sundrum is the medical lead at Seaside View Child Development Service, and says: ” If your child has medical conditions or a disability, you may wish to discuss the risk of your child attending school with one of the Seaside View or hospital paediatricians.” Seaside View Child Development Service can be contacted on 01273 265780. Bear in mind the challenges facing health services and only take up this offer if you need to, given that the advice is to keep children at home as far as possible.

My child has an EHCP but is in a private, independent, non-maintained school, college or nursery.  Do they need to enable them to still attend? 

Nurseries, private schools, sixth forms and FE Colleges have all been asked to follow the same guidance. Again there is a lot of detail for them to work through about which children and young people they need to provide for and how to implement an offer to these children in practice. The government has said they will provide financial support for these settings as required. But we have heard that some are closing to all children and young people regardless. Check with the setting your child attends. If they are not making a plan for your child and you think your child is one of those that needs to be getting provision in school rather than being safer at home ask the SENDIASS helpline for advice.

If my child was out of school before the school closures were ordered, do I still have an entitlement to alternative education?

If your child attends a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) or Alternative Provision, this setting may remain open to provide support for children in the ‘vulnerable’ category and/or children of key workers.

If your child was not receiving any education, it is likely to be very difficult to enforce the LA’s duty to provide education while schools in general remain closed, simply because almost all children are now in the same situation.

What about the Easter holidays – I heard our child (with an EHCP) can still attend school then, is this right? 

The government’s guidance says “Where possible, we would encourage settings to also look after key workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.” Schools and other providers had to work out how to do this and which children should have the offer of this childcare. Extratime is supporting Hillpark and Downs View schools to offer a holiday scheme but mainstream schools have a more limited approach.

My child was getting support from BHISS at school. How is this working now?

Brighton & Hove Inclusion Support Service is continuing to advise and support children with SEND or emotional and mental health issues, but their services will be provided remotely, by telephone or other platforms such as Skype and Zoom. For full details of how this will work and how to contact them, see BHISS’s latest statement: https://amazesussex.org.uk/amaze_news/latest-support-from-bhiss-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

I’m worried we will be asked to provide some education or learning for our children whilst they are off school, but I wouldn’t know where to start

Most schools have started to prepare and send resources home with the children. Clearly, this may be much harder for some children with learning difficulties or additional needs, or if you have to work from home as well as look after the kids. There are lots of tips online from experienced home educators, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself as this is going to be new for everyone. Surely, a bit of TV now and then will be fine!

See our blog about surviving the lock down on the Compass Card website: https://www.compasscard.org.uk/news-and-events/leisure-learning-and-lock-down/  This has a thorough list of resources and links for educational activities and fun for children with additional needs and is not only for families that have a Compass Card. It is regularly updated so we are not putting other ideas and links here.

Do we know how long schools will close for? 

No not yet, the government’s announcement just says ‘until further notice’. The Scottish government has been clearer and have said their schools will be closed until August so we could anticipate the same will apply in England.

I’m worried I won’t be able to cope if schools are shut for a long time. Who should I call?

Nobody knows how this situation will play out and how long schools will be shut. If you are worried about how you will support your child at home then please talk to your child’s school in the first instance. BHISS services are all still working but in different ways. If you or your child was getting advice and support from a BHISS team you can contact them and they may offer advice and support by phone, email or a video call. You can always contact the Amaze helpline for additional support and seek peer support from other parents/carers on the Amaze Facebook Group or other local parent-led SEND groups such as mASCot (https://asc-mascot.com/) and Brighton Pebbles (http://www.brightonpebbles.org.uk/).

The following resources have some helpful tips for coping with a lockdown:

https://amazesussex.org.uk/looking-after-your-familys-wellbeing-during-lock-down/

https://www.compasscard.org.uk/leisure-learning-and-lock-down/

My child with SEND is really going to struggle without the structure and routine of school – any tips?

If your child uses Makaton here’s a resource to explain why they aren’t going to school: https://www.makaton.org/shop/shopping/freeDownloadDetails/My-school-is-closed

It may help to create a visual timetable for your child so they can have structure in their days at home. See this template for an example: https://search3.openobjects.com/mediamanager/hackney/fsd/files/daily_planner_to_support_structure_at_home.pdf

Or visit Autism Train’s website. They have put together several useful resources about creating a routine and using a visual timetable   http://www.autismtrain.co.uk/resources/

Our child is currently having their needs assessed for an Education Health and Care Plan. How will this process be affected? 

The SEN Team at Brighton and Hove City Council will be continuing to complete EHC needs assessments and produce EHC plans. They are having to work differently in these difficult times. There is information about how this will work on the Local Offer: https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/SEND/update/sen-team-covid-19-interim-arrangements-information-schools-and-partners

The Government have said that they are amending SEND regulations to change timescales relating to EHC plan processes, but BHCC have said they will try to keep to these as far as possible. Reports by professionals will be done based on existing knowledge of a child and contact by phone and video conferencing e.g. Skype. Educational Psychologists will use a consultation approach, talking to parents, school and in some cases the child or young person. It will be noted that the reports were written during the coronavirus period and where necessary they may be amended later. There will not be a co-production meeting. The casework officer will prepare a draft plan based on all the advices which will go to SEN Panel and then be sent to you, the school and professionals who wrote the advices. You will then get a call to talk it through and you will be able to comment and ask for changes as you would have done at a co-production meeting.  You and your child should still be actively involved in the process.

Will annual reviews still need to be carried out?

The Coronavirus Emergency legislation has given LAs and schools some flexibility on the deadlines for annual reviews. Summer term annual reviews may be postponed, although some schools are using telephone and video conferencing to carry out some reviews.

If you feel there is an urgent need to amend the provision or placement in the child or young person’s EHC plan, speak to the school and the LA about this to see what review mechanisms could be put in place.

I have an appeal in progress to the SEND Tribunal or was about to lodge one. How will this be affected? 

Mediation is continuing but face to face meetings are being replaced by video conferencing. Global Mediation say they have robust plans to carry on but to expect them to be a bit slower in responding than usual.

Tribunals are going ahead. The SEND Tribunal has confirmed that hearings will be on paper or by telephone (and, where the technology permits, by video) starting on Monday 23 March 2020.

The Tribunal have asked parties not to call the Tribunal until 2 days before hearings if they haven’t heard anything as, like every public service, they are affected by staff shortages as a result of COVID-19.

From 30 March 2020, appeals and claims will be prioritised by the judiciary and consideration given to the use of additional approaches including triaging of cases to ensure that decisions are made proportionately.  With these measures, it is expected that there should be no need to adjourn hearings if the parties are ready to go ahead, even though they may not be able to take place in person.

For new appeals, timescales and priorities have changed in the light of the current emergency. Any new appeals are now going to be listed on a 20-week timetable, unless it is about a phase transfer, which will be 12-14 weeks.

You can find further guidance on how telephone and video hearings will be used during the COVID-19 outbreak here  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-telephone-and-video-hearings-during-coronavirus-outbreak

IPSEA also have helpful information and tips: https://www.ipsea.org.uk/news/send-tribunal-update-for-volunteers-parents-and-carers

I was about to take an issue to the Local Government Ombudsman. How will this be affected? 

The LGO are not taking any new cases for the time being.

What about exclusions?

The guidance from the government does not mention exclusions. This means schools still have the legal power to exclude. Of course the usual rules around exclusions still apply so schools must have a lawful reason to exclude and any formal exclusion must be non-discriminatory, reasonable, fair and proportionate. In current circumstances it is hard to see how exclusion could be justified if the risk assessment process described above has identified that they are one of the few children that need to be in school. Seek advice from our SENDIASS helpline if it does happen to your child.

My child was taking GCSEs or A Levels this year. How will they get grades now these have been cancelled?

Exams have been cancelled for 2020 to give pupils, parents, and teachers certainty, and free up schools and colleges to focus on supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers. You can find out more in this government publication about exams in 2020

Where else can I get answers about education issues and COVID-19? 

If you can’t get find out what you need to know locally, the Department for Education has set up a helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

Opening hours: 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

 

Support from Amaze

What support can we expect from Amaze? 

Amaze are doing all we can to keep our services going in some form. Amaze and PaCC employ a large number of parents and carers who are affected now schools are shut and like everyone we may be affected by sickness and self-isolation. So things may be slower than usual. We are trying to find different way to do things that would normally involve meeting you face to face individually or in groups.

We are keeping our Helpline open to provide families with up to date information, advice and support. You should call 01273 772289 or email sendiass@amazesussex.org.uk  Workers are running this from home so you will need to leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Please also explore our website. It has lots of useful information and resources for parent carers and young people with SEND.

Amaze will also continue to provide some casework appointments (SENDIASS, Looking Forward and Disability Living Allowance /Personal Independence Payment  help) but these will be provided virtually/on line or over the phone.

Our Amazing Futures sessions for young people have stopped but we are finding other ways to keep in touch and have fun together.

Our Face 2 Face befrienders can no longer make visits but again we are working out how to keep offering befriending support to parents in other ways.

Amaze has had to stop all workshops and outreach. But we encourage families to continue to come together virtually using existing Facebook Groups e.g. Dad’s Group, F2F Breakfast Club, PaCC, and the more general Amaze group. Amaze will be looking into setting up more virtual solutions including training webinars in the coming weeks.

The Compass team are continuing to process Compass forms and send out Compass Cards. It may take a bit longer than usual so please bear with us. Many Compass Card offers are affected by coronavirus but the Compass team have produced some great information about things to do during lockdown: https://www.compasscard.org.uk/leisure-learning-and-lock-down/

Health questions

If I suspect my child is showing signs of coronavirus what should I do? What if they have underlying medical conditions too?

If you, your child or any member of your household has symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service online first. This will guide you about what to do next.

At present, there is no separate advice for people with underlying medical conditions who display possible coronavirus symptoms, unless they fall into the extremely vulnerable group explained below.

Check current government advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

Here is the government’s advice about self-isolation https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/

I heard that the guidelines for deciding how to treat someone who is very ill with COVID-19 in hospital might discriminate against disabled people. Is this true? 

This has been sorted out now. Hospital staff were told to use NICE guidance that was to help them make decisions about who was likely to be able to benefit from intensive care using guidelines written with very frail elderly people in mind (the Clinical Frailty Scale CFS). It has now been clarified that the CFS should not be used for assessing younger people, people with stable long term disabilities, learning disabilities, autism or cerebral palsy. They should be looked at individually instead.

I think my child’s health issues mean they are in the “extremely vulnerable” group. What do I need to know? 

There is specific advice and plans for additional support for people of any age who are in the extremely vulnerable group at risk of very severe illness if they catch the virus. If your child or you are in this group you should have had a letter or been contacted by your GP by Sunday 29.3.20. This will ask you to register at GOV.UK or phone 0800 028 8327.

We have heard from some parents that this system is not working perfectly. The NHS are using information they have “coded” on medical records and this can mean some people are told to shield who are not extremely vulnerable and others who are have not been contacted yet. If you are unsure contact your GP or your child’s specialist to check.

For more information  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Keep checking the NHS website for guidance in case of changes

If your child is in this extremely vulnerable group you can also get local help from the new Community Hub https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/request-help-yourself-or-someone-else

I’ve got symptoms of coronavirus and am self-isolating but I live and care on my own for my child with SEND – what should I do?

You should follow the NHS advice about staying at home. Where possible you should try to get someone else to care for the child(ren) so that you can self-isolate in a separate room. You ideally need to keep two metres away from others, sleep in a separate bed, and use your own towels. Please see more advice here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/

People self-isolating with suspected coronavirus symptoms will also get regular check-ins from a new NHS 111 online messaging service launched on Saturday 4th April 2020. Once individuals have been through the online assessment, daily texts will be sent to those who have registered their Covid-19 symptoms and left contact details.

Depending on the duration of their isolation, the daily messages will check how people are and ensure that those who need help to get them through that period, receive it.

Lots of new local support networks are setting up to help look after each other in practical ways during the pandemic. See Brighton Covid 19 Mutual Aid Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/491658741529273/ or search for your own local one.

Some individuals and neighbourhoods are also offering help via a #viralkindness postcard that has taken off nationally. And Amaze has set up a version of this card that enables neighbours to offer particular help to families who have a member with additional needs https://amazesussex.org.uk/amaze_news/amaze-creates-community-help-postcard-to-help-vulnerable-send-families-during-covid-19/

If friends and neighbours are not able to give the help you need you can contact the Community Hub to ask for help https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/request-help-yourself-or-someone-else

In addition to my child with SEND/underlying medical condition, I also care for an elderly relative. What should I do?

As both elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk we advise you to do all you can to minimise spread of the infection according to the latest government advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Should I be asking my child’s doctor for additional medication for them at this time?

Most pharmacies are still open and repeat prescriptions should be available as usual from now on. We are being asked to only request medicines when they are running low as you usually would, because ordering medicines too early or ordering more than usual can lead to fewer medicines in the system and potentially, shortages for others. Sussex health commissioners (he CCGs) say that manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies are working hard to minimise medicine shortages as a result of COVID-19.

Check your child’s supply of medication now and, if you are worried about running out, you should call your GP surgery and talk to them. If you may be able to get a get a repeat prescription for the period of the crisis if you don’t currently have one set up. If your child would have been due a check before the prescription was next reordered they may override this for now if that is safe.

Patients are being encouraged to apply for repeat prescriptions online or using Prescription Ordering Direct (POD) phone service, if this is available with their GP practice. This will speed up the process for repeat prescriptions to be issued.

You can also register for getting repeat medication directly from your pharmacy. Patients in Brighton & Hove and Worthing can register via RepeatMeds https://www.repeat-meds.com/. If you haven’t already set up an account, it’s very easy to do so. You need some basic patient details including your GP surgery and to nominate a pharmacy. You can request any drugs currently on your repeat prescription list and they will deliver.

Over the counter paracetamol has been short locally but it is expected that this will be replenished soon.

We are self-isolating so cannot get to pharmacy to collect a prescription, what should I do? 

Community pharmacies are extremely busy at the moment and are unlikely to be able to assist with home delivery if it is not normally something you receive.

If you have a repeat prescription and are registered with a medical condition that makes you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, you can register yourself, or on behalf of someone to get support. Click here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable  for more information.

If you have a repeat prescription and are self-isolating, see if someone else is able to pick up the prescription for you. If you are isolating, have them drop it off outside your door so that you can avoid face-to-face contact. If friends and neighbours are not able to give the help you need you can contact the Community Hub to ask for help https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/request-help-yourself-or-someone-else

NHS Volunteer Responders and local community support can help with delivering medicines from pharmacies, but it is best to check with your pharmacy first.

Should / can we stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene products or over the counter medicine? Can GPs help as some shops are already empty?

PPE like masks and gloves are in short supply across all local authorities. We’ll keep you updated if we get information about supply chains or solutions.

Most supermarkets are now operating restrictions on the amount of sanitary goods, medicines and food staples that people can buy so theoretically supplies will be maintained but you may need to get there early in the morning or ask staff when deliveries are expected.

If you already get pain relief medication via prescription, you will be able to reorder this via your nominated pharmacy, otherwise you would have to contact your GP first to request it. If the big supermarkets don’t have any paracetamol or Calpol, try your local corner shop or convenience store who may keep stocks behind the counter. Alternatively, ask some of your neighbourhood or online networks. Over the counter paracetamol has been short locally but it is expected that this will be replenished soon.

Will our booked appointment with my child’s Community Paediatrician still go ahead?

There are likely to be changes to the services that Seaside View will be offering over the next few weeks. Seaside View will contact you to let you know about changes and how they will carry out planned appointments. However, if you have any health concerns about your child, paediatricians can be contacted to discuss these concerns and arrange any assessment and action if appropriate. Seaside View Child Development Service can be contacted on 01273 265780.

My child has currently got therapy support or other appointments coming up. Will these still be going ahead?

All services are having to do emergency planning for a potential scaling back of services and will be working out how they can continue to provide services for families by alternative methods, eg telephone. Community paediatricians and therapists are also considering how they can offer face to face appointments if they are clinically indicated.

What if my child has a hospital appointment or I need to take them to hospital?

If your child needs urgent medical attention for a reason other than coronavirus don’t hold back because you are worried about risk of infection at hospitals or you feel we should not burden the health service at this time. Hospital staff are taking every precaution to keep patients safe. Use good judgement to decide whether to use NHS111, your GP, A&E or calling 999 if your child needs you to.

A&E departments are not closed and continue to be open to deal with genuine life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe burns or scalds
  • major trauma such as a road traffic accident

If your child has a more routine hospital appointment coming up call to check if you should attend. They may be offering virtual appointments instead or postponing that clinic during the crisis.

What about visiting if my child is in hospital?

Hospitals are limiting who can visit. Most in-patients will not be allowed any visitors but exceptions are being made for children and adults with additional needs. From 27/3/20 locally this means for children in hospital only one parent/carer is permitted, no siblings. And for adults only a carer with a carer’s passport or a carer’s card.

Latest information for The Sussex County and Alex https://www.bsuh.nhs.uk/your-visit/visiting/

Can I still get a GP appointment? 

Yes, all patients registered at a GP Practice still ask for appointments with a Doctor, Nurse, Healthcare Assistant or Social Prescriber. A number of GP Surgeries are conducting appointments via telephone or video consultation so you should check their website in the first instance. If this won’t work for you or your child because of their disability speak to your GP practice. For certain groups of patients, such as the deaf community, people with learning disabilities, people whose first language is not English and people who do not have access to the telephone, GP Practices are making alternative arrangements to ensure these patients can access appointments. Please check with your individual GP Practice.

Remember, if you or your child has symptoms that suggest it could be coronavirus, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital as you could pass the infection to others. Visit NHS 111 online or call NHS 111 if you need to speak to someone.

What about dental appointments?

Routine dentistry and orthodontic treatment has now stopped and will be postponed until the situation changes.

All dental practices will be required to establish (independently or by collaboration with others) a remote urgent care service, providing telephone triage for their patients with urgent needs during usual working hours, and whenever possible treating with advice, pain relief etc. If your child has a dental problem start by contacting your usual dentist.

 

Mental health questions

My child has high anxiety/mental health issues and is very worried about CV. What can I do to support them?

We have written a guide for parents about what’s out there to help you look after your child’s mental wellbeing during this difficult time, including resources recommended by the team at BHISS and a couple about taking care of yourself too: https://amazesussex.org.uk/looking-after-your-familys-wellbeing-during-lock-down/

This is a great children’s guide to coronavirus created by the Children’s Commissioner for England https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cco-childrens-guide-to-coronavirus.pdf

Local charity Safetynet have some very helpful information and ideas

https://www.safety-net.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Safety-Net-newsletter-special-edition.pdf

Needs Jungle has produced this useful article: https://www.specialneedsjungle.com/calming-coronavirus-anxiety-children-everyone-else/

There are easy to read, video resources and social stories explaining coronavirus for children and young people,

See:

Social story around the virus: https://660919d3-b85b-43c3-a3ad-3de6a9d37099.filesusr.com/ugd/64c685_319c5acf38d34604b537ac9fae37fc80.pdf

https://inclusionnorth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Coronavirus-Easy-Read-Information-12.3.2020.pdf

.https://www.healthwatchbrightonandhove.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/easy-read-advice-on-the-coronavirus-v1.pdf

https://littlepuddins.ie/coronavirus-social-story/   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSsKQPqpS7A

If you have particular concerns about your child’s emotional and mental health you can ask the Schools Wellbeing Service for a call from a Primary Mental Health Worker for a telephone consultation. This is for childen who normally attaend school in the city and are now off school because the schools have closed. Email SWSConsultationLine@brighton-hove.gov.uk or call 01273 293481. A Primary Mental Health Worker will call you back. This should be within two days, but they expect to have a high demand so it may be longer.

This is not a crisis number – if you require immediate support you need to contact your GP, call CAMHS duty care on 03003040061 or go direct to A&E.

For information on different services available, please visit findgetgive.com for example for young people.

I have high anxiety/mental health issues of my own and I am getting very anxious about CV, what should I do/who can help me?

You can contact the Amaze helpline for support and seek peer support from other parents/carers on the Amaze Facebook Group or other online groups for parent carers. The following resources may also be useful:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/#collapse0852c

https://afsp.org/taking-care-of-your-mental-health-in-the-face-of-uncertainty/

 

Social care questions

We have all been told to only go out once a day for exercise and to stay close to home. What if my child needs to get outside more than this or I need to drive them somewhere safe and accessible for them?

The government guidance about going out for exercise has been changed to take account of the needs of people (adults and children) who need to get outside more. It says:

“If you (or a person in your care) have a specific health condition that requires you to leave the home to maintain your health – including if that involves travel beyond your local area – then you can do so. This could, for example, include where individuals with learning disabilities or autism require specific exercise in an open space two or three times each day – ideally in line with a care plan agreed with a medical professional.”

The full guidance is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

You should take proof with you of your child’s needs such as Comapss Card, DLA letter, a medical report or similar.

For more reassurance about the legal position, SEN expert barrister Julian Norman has advice here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coronavirus-regulations-guide-exercise-send-parents-julian-norman/

This talks about needing to drive somewhere safe and suitable, but we think the same arguments would apply if your child’s needs mean you needed to go out twice for short trips or to stop and rest whilst out. Of course this doesn’t mean we should ignore the general principle that we the more we can limit leaving home the safer for everyone

I share care of my child with an ex-partner. Can they still move between both their homes?

Yes this is allowed. But you will need to make an individual decision about what is safest for your child and both households. This BBC news article explains both the guidance and what you will want to think about in making a decision https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52018136

What support can we expect to get from the Specialist Children’s Disability Service (SCDS)?

SCDS will be focusing its staffing resources on where it is needed most to ensure children and young people receive safe care. This means they may need to concentrate on some areas and reduce in others. The team has confirmed their offer to families will be:

  • Contact and visit families at highest risk
  • Daily contact with those families who are the most vulnerable
  • To set up a SCDS and Partners email inbox account for sharing information
  • Drove Road and Tudor House will continue to offer respite for as long as possible
  • Offer additional direct payments if PA availability is reduced

Are Drove Road and Tudor House (residential respite providers) going to close?

At present Brighton & Hove’s respite centres remain open for overnight respite. There may come a time when this provision has to cease due to staff shortages and families needing to self-isolate but the team will keep these services open for as long as possible. If the centres do close the local authority will try to offer other options for short breaks like additional direct payments or support from outreach and social work staff.

If my child’s PA is symptom free, would they still be able to come and help/take my child out if schools close? What if my PA is sick or self-isolating?

Yes your PA should work as usual unless they are sick or self-isolating.

Everyone in the city who gets Direct Payments is being sent a letter from Social Care with answers to key questions if you use your Direct Payments to employ PAs. We have been told this letter was sent on Friday 20 March.

What advice should I be giving to my child’s PA about self-isolating, whether they should still be working, etc.?  As employers, we have responsibilities and we want to be sure we are doing things properly

Independent Lives have produced some really useful, detailed guidance about what to do if your PA is self isolating either because they are displaying symptoms or because you feel it’s safer for them to do so for everyone’s wellbeing. See https://www.independentlives.org/coronavirus (the really useful info starts half way down the page).

Is there any extra funding available if my child’s PA can do extra hours?

The Specialist Community Disability Service may be able to look at funding some additional direct payments to support families during this time. You need to contact them directly on 01273 295550.

I am worried my child’s PA or respite provider will get sick/close and I won’t be able to cope. Who else can help me?

If you are worried about not being able to cope, you can call the Amaze Helpline in the first instance and if you leave a message (or send an email) we will phone you back to discuss your concerns.

If you are already under the care of the Children’s Disability Social Work team you should let them know if any part of your agreed social care support package is not happening as normal/required e.g. if your child’s PA becomes ill or is self-isolating and you have not been able to find a replacement.

Or if you don’t have any support but you feel that you need help then you should contact the Specialist Community Disability Service on 01273 295550.

For more advice on families caring for children with serious and complex health needs, see this information from Well Child and Carers UK:

https://www.wellchild.org.uk/2020/03/11/covid-19-information-for-parents-and-carers/

https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/health/looking-after-your-health/coronavirus-covid-19 

Money and Food questions

My child would normally receive free school meals and I am worried about the extra costs of feeding my family when the schools are closed

The government announced that they would put in place support for children eligible for free school meals. Schools can work with their existing caterers to provide deliveries or food parcels but there is now a national voucher scheme that schools can use. The vouchers are worth £15 a week. They will be an e-voucher or for families not online a gift card and can be redeemed for food at supermarkets (Asda, Sainsburys, etc) as you would a gift voucher. Your school should contact you if they are switching to this voucher scheme. This has also been extended to cover the Easter holiday period.

If you haven’t applied for free school meals in the past but want to check if you are eligible and apply now visit the council’s school meals webpage or email freeschoolmeals@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

There is information on current arrangements in Brighton and Hove here: https://bhfood.org.uk/covid-19-update-free-school-meals-in-brighton-hove-and-portslade/

Please beware of scams. Schools will NOT ask you for bank details.

I am having trouble getting food for my family. Can I get help?

If you are having general financial difficulties see the question later in this section.

Brighton Food Partnership have information about to get hold of food if you are struggling because of the Coronavirus. This includes how food banks are operating now and information about free or low cost delivery services for groceries or meals: https://bhfood.org.uk/coronavirus-update/

If you are unsure if you can use the special shopping hours at supermarkets for vulnerable shoppers, note that most are allowing carers to use these times. Take proof that you are a carer, for example a letter from DWP that shows you get Carers Allowance or DLA. If your child has a Compass card you should have had an email with a letter that explains that you are an essential carer to use for this.

If you are having trouble getting to the shops because you are self-isolating or you are a single parent and would have to take your child with SEND with you, it is fair enough to ask for help. Lots of new local support networks are setting up to help look after each other in practical ways during the pandemic. See Brighton Covid 19 Mutual Aid Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/491658741529273/ or search for your own local one.

Some individuals and neighbourhoods are also offering help via a #viralkindness postcard that has taken off nationally. And Amaze has set up a version of this card that enables neighbours to offer particular help to families who have a member with additional needs https://amazesussex.org.uk/amaze_news/amaze-creates-community-help-postcard-to-help-vulnerable-send-families-during-covid-19/

If friends and neighbours are not able to give the help you need you can contact the Community Hub to ask for help https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/request-help-yourself-or-someone-else

These local Community Hubs are there to help people who are having trouble meeting their essential needs during the current crisis because they are vulnerable and isolated. They will try to respond if you are in urgent need and can’t get support from family, friends or neighbours. They can help if you cannot get to the shops or need to know about food banks.

My child’s DLA is about to run out and I need help with applying for this or PIP

The government has announced that there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits for three months. This includes DLA and PIP, as well as Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance. Awards that were due to expire will be extended by three months. If you have an existing DLA claim you will still be sent a review pack. You will get more time to complete this than usual but don’t ignore it as you will need to get it done eventually. The same applies if your older young person is already on PIP and gets a PIP renewal pack.

If you had a review pack before the start of lockdown and your award is due to end in the next 4 weeks, it is probably worth ringing DWP to check and request an extension.

If your child is getting DLA and due to turn 16 soon, you may still get asked to switch to PIP. Do not ignore this invitation as you don’t want a break in your DLA award. You will be given extra time to complete the pack but you still need to do it. Keep the DWP informed and ask for more time if you need it.

The DWP have also stopped all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits for the time being. If you have an appointment you do not have to go to this. They will contact you.

If you were due to ask for your child’s claim to be reassessed because of a change in circumstances, for example to get the mobility component when your child turns five, you can still do this.

You can continue to phone/email the Amaze helpline for advice about reviews and reassessments. 

I was about to claim DLA or PIP. Can I still do that? 

Yes the DWP are still taking new claims as usual. You can phone/email the Amaze helpline for advice and help. It may take a bit longer for us to help, but don’t miss out on these valuable benefits by delaying starting a claim.

I have just had a decision on a DLA or PIP claim that I think is wrong. Can I still try to get this changed? 

Yes. If you already have a decision that you do not agree with, be aware the timescales for requesting a mandatory reconsideration or lodging an Appeal are short and have not changed. If you need extra time to get advice do contact DWP and ask for more time given the current crisis.

You can continue to phone/email the Amaze helpline for advice about reconsiderations and appeals.

I have an appeal in progress about DLA or PIP. What is happening with appeal hearings? 

Appeal hearings have been put on hold so the appeals service can work out how to carry them out in another way e.g. by phone or video conference. They will contact you to let you know what is happening. If your appeal hearing is less than a week away and you have not yet heard you should call them.

What about Carer’s Allowance?

The government has changed the Carer’s Allowance rules so that a break in caring can be ignored if it is caused by either the disabled person or their carer having Coronavirus symptoms so don’t worry if this is the case for you.

If your income has dropped at the moment it may be time to claim Carer’s Allowance. Check if your child gets the relevant rates of DLA or PIP to claim Carer’s Allowance if you are now under the earnings limit of £128 per week after deductions.

I am worried about how my family is going to survive this financially.  I can’t afford to stay at home if I am sick or to care for my child. I am self-employed and can’t work. Or I think I may lose my job. What help is there?

The government has introduced a range of measures to help people in the crisis.

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is now available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice. The extended SSP is for all those who are advised to self-isolate, even if they haven’t yet presented with symptoms. SSP will be payable from day one instead of day four for affected individuals.

If you are not eligible to receive sick pay you may be able to apply for Universal Credit and/or apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance. Citizens Advice explain things here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/coronavirus-check-what-benefits-you-can-get/

There have been changes in how to apply and some aspects have been made easier or more generous, for example allowed housing costs. Official government information on coronavirus and claiming benefits: Understanding Universal Credit  This has information on new claims and for existing ones and covers more than just Universal Credit.

If you are employed but could be laid off due to coronavirus affecting your job, your employer may be able to get government support to keep paying you 80% of your normal pay. New guidance makes clear that those unable to work due to caring responsibilities resulting from Covid-19 can be furloughed by their employer. This means that if you are unable to work because you are caring for a child at home or because you are shielding a vulnerable household member, you might be able to get 80% of your wages paid via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Your employer has to agree this with you. For more information and advice on this https://workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/coronavirus-furlough/

If you are self-employed there is now a government scheme to help. If your income from work is reduced or has completely stopped due to coronavirus, then eventually there may be some help available, based on 80% of your average profits over a past period, up to a maximum of £2,500, and covering a three month period. This will apply if the majority of your income is from self-employment (where you are not paid through pay as you earn and no one is responsible for paying Class 1 national insurance for you, even if you earned enough). You’ll need to submit a tax return for the year 2018-19, and can do so by 23rd April 2020 if you haven’t already.

You won’t be able to apply to the scheme yet.  If you’re eligible, HMRC will contact you. More information is available on the Gov.UK website.

Other steps include avoiding people having their utilities cut off or losing their home for falling behind with their rent or mortgage payments. Find out more here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/if-you-cant-pay-your-bills-because-of-coronavirus/

And you can get an isolation note through a new online service on the NHS website (https://tinyurl.com/vccz7ux) and NHS 111 online (https://www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19). Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work.

If you are really short of money and it is becoming an urgent problem, you can ask the new Community Hubs for help in getting advice, accessing a food bank or fuel vouchers etc.

https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/request-help-yourself-or-someone-else

Is there somewhere else I could look for advice on benefits issues for parent carers?

Reliable information from Contact on benefits and coronavirus for families with a disabled child: https://contact.org.uk/advice-and-support/benefits-financial-help/benefits-and-tax-credits/coronavirus-and-welfare-benefits/#content

Is there somewhere else I could look for advice on employment/self-employment issues for parent carers?

For working parents of disabled children and coronavirus see the good information from Working Families  https://workingfamilies.org.uk/article-categories/covid19/

Other useful websites for advice:

 

Disclaimer

Amaze has put together this list to try and answer some of the concerns families have expressed to us about how coronavirus will affect them. Our answers were compiled based on the latest advice from trusted sources such as Public Health England, the NHS, Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County council and national or local news outlets reporting the same. Even with the reliability of our sources, we cannot take responsibility for the accuracy of the information or any actions taken as a result.

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