You will all be aware that the omicron variant is now spreading in England. The NNPCF have been involved in several conversations with the Department for Education and NHS England about what this means for children and young people (CYP)with SEND.
Whilst we cannot predict the impact of omicron on services some very familiar topics have been discussed including wearing of masks, covid testing of children, supply of teachers and teaching assistants, remote education, blended learning, school rotas and the potential for full school closures.
Through these discussions we have been emphasising some key points:
· The need to coproduce any solutions with families – no blanket solutions and policies should be implemented and services should ensure the particular needs of CYP with SEND and their families are understood.
· The need to make reasonable adjustments for CYP with SEND to ensure that they can continue to access services and education
Whilst the government have stated that schools will only be closed in a national lockdown as a last resort, we must recognise the risk that with widespread omicron infections, some individual schools may need to close because of staff not being available either because of illness or the need to isolate
You can find the latest DfE guidance here, much of it has been updated this week: Guidance for schools: coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
At the same time, NHS leaders have issued a letter to NHS trusts and commissioners. You will see point 4 makes specific reference to learning disability and autism services. We have also raised concerns with both NHSE and the DfE that the vaccination drive may lead to health services for CYP with SEND being diverted to the vaccination effort.
Please keep in touch with your NNPCF steering group member to feed back what is happening in your local area. We rely upon your feedback to both to ensure we are representing your views and also to alert the DfE and NHSE to real issues in your areas.