Thank you to everyone for their continued commitment to children with special educational needs and or disabilities in this difficult time. Our local situations and services are changing as the national picture changes. Our Special Educational Needs and/ or Disabilities Services are continuing to operate, and we are constantly reviewing and adapting our working practices.
The Government advice about Coronavirus (Covid 19) is that council staff must work from home, wherever possible. We are continuing to work with schools and others to support vulnerable children and young people and children of key workers. SEN Caseworkers and SEN managers are in constant contact with parent/carers, schools and other professionals.
All SEN staff are contactable by email. The duty number (0191 277 4650) and email inbox SENCaseworkers@newcastle.gov.uk are being monitored during office hours and messages are returned by email or phone. We can access all of our electronic systems and have Microsoft Teams for Business meetings.
Please see below for some details of how we will continue with our essential work:
SEND Inclusion Panel
We are continuing to run a virtual SEND Inclusion Panel meeting every fortnight for pre and post-16 children and young people. This panel is responsible for deciding whether to agree requests for an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment. It will also decide whether to issue an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan after an assessment.
EHC Needs Assessments
We are prioritising completing EHC needs assessment and producing EHC plans. We will continue to work to legal deadlines where possible.
Professionals will use their best endeavors to provide advices towards EHC needs assessments. They will do this using past knowledge of the child or young person, information available to them through paperwork on the child or young person and telephone consultations with parent/carers and professionals who know the child or young person well. Their reports will be sent to parent/carers by email or post according to the arrangements of each service. If a service feels unable to write an advice based on the information available, this will be discussed with the SEN team and parent/carers, in order to develop an agreed way forward.
Co-production of EHC Plans
We will not be able to have planning meetings to discuss the contents of the draft plan in person. Instead a SEN Caseworker will pull together a draft plan based on all of the information known to them. The SEN Inclusion Panel will look at the draft plans and recommend whether a child or young person should have an EHC plan. SEN Caseworkers will send a draft plan by post to families, and by email to schools and advice givers. We will send draft plans by email to families if requested. We will contact the family by phone or email to explain the contents of the plan. We will also ask families for their views and for any amendments they would like to see. Families can also email their comments to us. School staff and professionals will provide their views by email. We will consider all amendments requested. We will then issue a final EHC plan in the usual way.
Annual Review meetings
Schools may need to postpone annual review meetings due to take place in the summer term. We are looking at how we can support schools in holding a review by virtual meetings by telephone or video.