Welcome to the first update of the new academic year. I hope that you have had a good summer and, if your child attends an education setting, that the start of the new term has gone as smoothly as possible. With last week’s sad news, our thoughts are with everyone who is feeling touched by this loss – we posted some links on our Facebook page that may help in having conversations with children with SEND about death and grief, as well as finding support for yourself, if you need it.
There are lots of updates that have come in over the summer – I’ve listed these below so you can jump straight to the ones that are of most interest. But before those, I thought it might be useful to do a quick reminder about where you can find information and support about SEND in Hertfordshire. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully a useful starting point. And please don’t forget that HPCI is here to represent all families with SEND in Herts – if you want to share your experiences and concerns, or provide any feedback, you can always email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Info and support in Herts
The Hertfordshire Local Offer is your first port of call for all things SEND in Herts. It has lots of information about events (both for children/young people and their parents and carers), the many fantastic support groups there are in Herts and contact details for the various teams at the council that you might need, amongst many other things.
If you are looking for individual advice, Herts SENDIASS is the local Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS). There are also a number of voluntary groups where you can get advice, including IPSEA, Contact and SOS!SEN.
The HPCI website also has a number of sections on Getting Help and you can also look back on our newsletters for recent information relating to SEND in Herts.
The rest of the newsletter has a number of updates relating to….
NHS survey on Community Nursing services
Healthwatch Hertfordshire has asked us to let our members know that they are looking to hear about people’s experiences of Community Nursing services – whether as a carer or service user. Community Nursing includes Learning Disability Nurses, Health Visitors, General Practices Nurses and a range of others. If you are interested in taking part, further information is in this flyer and the contact point for more details is: email@example.com
Autumn COVID-19 booster and flu vaccination programme for Hertfordshire and West Essex
You may already be aware that an autumn booster vaccination for COVID-19 will be available from early September. Those eligible include all over 50s, those aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group, or who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression, and those aged 16 to 49 years who are carers. People at most risk will be invited to come forward first and the NHS will advise eligible people when it is their turn. Full information can be found here.
Information from Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) on changes to provision panel process
You may be aware that, in Hertfordshire, once an Education, Health and Care Plan has been agreed, if a parent requests that a special school is named there is then a discussion at a “provision panel” where the type of setting that will best meet the needs set out in the EHCP is decided by HCC officers. There is then a second panel to identify the specific school of that type that is able to admit the child or young person. HPCI has long been talking to HCC about the problems with this system, which often leaves families with an agreement on a type of school or setting, but not always an agreement on which school their child will attend, or how long they will have to wait for a place (which may be years).
This process is only one element of the issue of special school places in Hertfordshire, and we will be hosting a public forum later this term to hear from HCC how they plan to make sure children and young people are able to access appropriate provision, near to home – more details on this webinar to follow.
In the meantime, HCC has this week put out some information which explains that they are going to be pausing these provision panels in September and October while they work with the families who are currently awaiting a placement to agree a pathway for their child. They will also be using the next couple of months to review the provision panel process and decide on a future method for looking at requests for special school places. HPCI has not been involved in developing this proposal but it is vital that this issue is addressed and that all statutory requirements are met while any review is undertaken. We will keep in contact with the council while this work is underway and will keep our members informed once we know more. The announcement from HCC is available on this page of the Local Offer, which will also be where future updates will be published.
CAMHS transitions survey
CAMHS have asked us to share this survey which looks at the experience of transitioning from Children’s Mental Health to Adult Mental Health Services. I have copied the information that they have provided below:
“In Hertfordshire we are working to improve mental health services and support for our young people. The purpose for this conversation is understanding the experiences of parents and carers as their young people move from children’s mental health services into ones which are adult orientated.
Current structures around our health care systems define children’s health 0-18 and adult health at 18+. This may not suit the needs of our young adult population who are rising from adolescence to the independence of adulthood.
To help us better shape the current system and the future requirements, it is important we understand the experiences and views of those who have already been through this journey – our young people, parents and carers and the professionals working in the system.
This is a short questionnaire to give us your thoughts and views on what you have experienced through supporting your young people’s mental health and the transitions they have either made or need to make into adult based mental health services.”
The survey is open until 30 September and can be accessed here.
Eastern Region (Learning Disability) Family Forum webinars
The Eastern Region (Learning Disability) Family Forum is there for families of children, young people and young adults of all ages who have learning disabilities / autism and who will need support from social care beyond their 25th birthday. They are running two free webinars for family carers next month, including An Overview of the Care Act (11 October at 10.30am) and The Mental Capacity Act and Money Matters (25th October at 10.30am). To find out more about these webinars or about becoming part of this forum, please contact Sara Kent on 07901 837 854 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Infant Mental Health Team
Members with pre-school children may be interested to know about Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust’s (HCT’s) Infant Mental Health Team which provides an early intervention service, working with parents/carers of children aged 0–5 years who are experiencing problems which might include:
Parents/carers can self-refer by calling the HPFT Single Point of Access (SPA) mental health helpline on 0800 6444 101.
Motor Development Information Sessions
HCT have also asked us to let parents and carers know about these sessions running this term looking at motor development. These sessions are for parents or carers of children aged between 4-8 years old who would like to understand more about their child’s motor development and how to support this. They will cover information about the typical ages when children develop different motor skills and give advice on activities and simple things you can do at home to support your child’s motor development. Further information and booking details are available here.
High Needs Funding Banding Descriptors and Provision Tool – training
You may be aware that, once a child or young person in a Herts mainstream school has an EHCP, that plan is then “banded” in order to decide how much money the school or setting will receive to deliver what is set out in the plan. HCC has a set of banding descriptors which helps those people making the banding decisions – they describe what different levels of need might look like, by age, against a range of different needs including: Speech and Language and Communication Needs; Communication (social) and Autism; Cognition and Learning; Social, Emotional and Mental Health; and a range of Sensory and/or Physical needs. These descriptors have recently been updated and there are some training sessions running this month to explain what the changes look like.
While this training is not essential for parents and carers, you might find it helpful in order to better understand your child’s needs in the context of other children, and to allow you to feed into the banding discussions, alongside the school, the HCC SEND service and the professionals providing the advice for the main presenting need.
The sessions are running on 28 September (12:00 – 14:00) in Stevenage and on 30 September (09:30 – 11:30) in Hemel Hempstead. You can find further information on the leaflet here.
I do want to acknowledge that HPCI is very aware that there are a number of parents and carers who have concerns about this banding system and don’t think this is the best approach to allocating funding to deliver EHCP provisions. I just want to reassure you that these concerns have been raised with HCC and indeed legal advice was taken, which established that this method of allocating funding is not unlawful. (If anyone has any different legal advice, please do share it with us.) We will continue to share information about the banding system as we think it is important that we do our best to help families understand the system Herts has in place and the changes that have recently been introduced.
Finally, I would like to welcome Charlotte Kemp and Desirée de Silva-Power to the HPCI staff, who are joining us to support on Membership, and the Autism in Schools project respectively. They are both Herts parents of children with SEND and between them bring a wealth of valuable experience and skills.