Covid-19 Department for Education NHS England

NNPCF input into planning for Omicron

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 (

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.

consultations Department for Education SEND Review

Latest developments on the SEND Review

NNPCF to join SEND review steering group

The SEND review has now been running for over 2 years and there has been increasing frustration and speculation about the progress of the work.

When the review was set up in 2019, we were not invited to join the review in a formal capacity. At the time, we highlighted the review would lack legitimacy without direct parental input.

However, we have now been asked to join the SEND review steering group. Because we continue to believe that coproduction and a strong family voice is essential, we have decided to accept the invitation.

We will be sharing the same messages we have been for the last two years

Even though, we haven’t been a formal member of the review until now, we have made strong and consistent representations into the review for the past two years.

 In its initial phases in 2019 we arranged a series of local, regional and national events to ensure that the parent-carer voice was heard by the SEND team and insisted that parents should have simple routes to contribute. You can find our representations on WHAT needed to change here: NNPCF conference gives SEND Review seven clear messages – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

After this, we have continued to work on our input into the review (via the many groups, boards, and established relationships we have access to) and in March 2021, we presented a webinar at our conference on HOW we should deliver the improved outcomes for children and young people with SEND through changing minimum standards, funding, accountability and reporting in the SEND system. You can find this webinar here: NNPCF input into the SEND review – YouTube. The presentation is here Microsoft PowerPoint – NNPCF input in to the SEND review.

We will continue to be transparent and seek to work with colleagues in the SEND sector to influence the review

We have met with other SEND groups including the Special Educational Consortium, the Disabled Children’s Partnership and the Let us Learn Too campaign – all of these groups are asking for similar changes to the system as the NNPCF. These and other groups also do important work representing families. We believe these messages should be heard through as many channels as possible via both campaigning and coproduction

Department for Education DfE guidance Minister for children and families NNPCF work

Powers of the SEND tribunal to make non-binding recommendations extended

The government has confirmed that the single route redress national trial will end in August (it had been extended because of Covid 19). In line with the recommendations of the trial, the government has confirmed that the powers of the tribunal to make non-binding recommendations on health and social care will continue. Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford has written to members of the Single Route of Redress Steering Group to confirm this decision and thank them for their efforts. We attach a copy of the letter;

The NNPCF has worked extensively on this project as a member of the steering group and outside. We have consistently argued that the powers of the tribunal to make judgements on health and social care services was necessary and a positive step towards increased accountability and protecting the rights of children with SEND. We also maintain that the judgements on health and social care should be made binding.

You can find more on our work on this topic here NNPCF work to improve accountability in the SEND system – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

Department for Education NNPCF work

Transitions and annual reviews

We wanted to take this opportunity to update on two Covid related issues have been raised to the NNPCF over recent few weeks that we have escalated to the Department for Education


We have been contacted by many parents who have been very worried about children and young people who are coming up to important transitions. Because of the disruption of the last year, many CYP have not been able to undertake or complete the programme of work that was planned in order to prepare them for an important transition. This could be a transition between key stages, schools or educational settings, leaving education or even coming up to the age of 26 when an EHCP will cease.

We are concerned that if CYP are not properly prepared for a change (especially those with SEND) they are at increased risk of not transitioning successfully -this may manifest itself in many forms such as academic failure, anxiety and mental health concerns or an inability to make the steps to independence that are required (e.g. getting public transport to college).

We have asked the DfE to ensure that the right measures are put in place for these young people. These measures should be discussed and coproduced with the CYP and their parent carers and may include things such as:

· Use of DfE catch up funding to provide additional educational or wrap around support

· Closer working between the sending setting and the receiving setting (e.g. a very closely co-ordinated and graduated transition)

· Delayed starts to allow CYP to develop the necessary skills and knowledge

· Repeating years

Annual reviews

We have heard very mixed reports of the status of annual reviews over the last few months. Some areas have fed back that they have been progressing as normal, just remotely. Others have told us that the quality and frequency of annual reviews has fallen significantly with many families reporting delays or annual reviews not happening at all. We have raised this with the Department for Education and have asked them to monitor the progress and quality of

annual reviews. We will also be asking Ofsted to look at annual reviews as a part of their local area visits when they resume over the coming months.

As most children have returned to school, we continue to monitor the feedback from parent carer forums on how this is going for SEND families. We will update further on this over the coming days.

Department for Education Minister for children and families

Minister Ford’s open letter on return to school

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford has put out an open letter to all families on the return to school.

Department for Education parent carer forum guidance

Statement on Department for Education about increased funding for parent carer forums

Dear parent carer forums

We hope that you and your families are keeping safe and that you’re navigating the latest challenges as best as you can.

We’re really pleased to be able to confirm that the DfE has this afternoon announced that they are continuing to fund SEND contracts next year.

You will be delighted to know that in recognition of the amazing work that forums do, especially throughout the pandemic, that forums’ funding has been increased by £2,500, to £17,500. We hope that forums will be reassured that funding is to continue for another year, and that the DfE sees the value and impact of the work of forums locally and regionally, and nationally, via the NNPCF.

Helen Scott at the DfE said ‘We are pleased to announce that we will re-awarding current contracts and grants which enable schools, colleges, families and local authorities, to support thousands of children with SEND. This includes providing up to £17,500 for each Parent Carer Forum – an increase of £2,500 compared to 2020-21 – to strengthen the participation of parents in the SEND system’

Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia, Co-Chairs of the NNPCF stated that ‘The National Network of Parent Carer Forums are really pleased that there is an extension to the strategic participation contract and we look forward to working with all parties within the consortium over the coming year. We are delighted that the DfE has recognised the difference that forums make, which is reflected in the £2,500 increase in the grant funding’.

This is a huge testament to the work that you all do to make a difference and to work with your local area partners to ensure the best service possible for your children and young people. We’re really proud to see how forums have developed over the years, and that they have become such strong and respected organisations.

We both look forward to continuing to work with all forums, and our other strategic participation consortium partners CDC and KIDS over the coming year.

With very best wishes,

Contact and the NNPCF

Department for Education

NNPCF cochairs meet with new Department for Education Permanent Secretary

Last week, NNPCF cochairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia met with Susan Acland-Hood, the newly appointed acting permanent secretary at the Department for Education.

Susan approached Tina and Mrunal for a meeting and wanted to hear first-hand from parent carers about the what it was like to raise a child with SEND.

In a wide-ranging discussion, they discussed the following topics

  • An introduction to the parent carer forum movement, who we are, what we do and the way we are set up.
  • The difficulties faced by families with SEND in the current system. This included the problems families face being heard; the difficulties in getting early help before situations reach crisis point; inadequate funding in the system; and the disincentives for school leaders to be inclusive.
  • The problems faced by families with SEND during the Covid 19 pandemic – the challenges in the absence of schooling, social care and health services. The NNPCF have reported on these extensively over the past six months.
  • The future of the SEND system and the need for far reaching reform that the NNPCF outlined for the SEND review from our conference last year.

At all points Tina and Mrunal emphasised the importance of coproduction with families- actually listening to them and shaping services in a way that makes sense to them. Susan commented that the PCF movement was doing a great job in modelling strategic coproduction and asked for further a meeting with more parent carers again in the new year

Department for Education Minister for children and families

NNPCF Steering Group meeting with Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families

NNPCF Steering Group meeting with Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families: COVID 19 and what needs to change with the SEND system

On Wednesday 18th March, the NNPCF steering group met with Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford. Because of COVID 19 restrictions, the meeting was a video-conference.


The Minister was keen to talk about the Education response to COVID 19.

Earlier this week, we issued shared the paper we had sent to the Department for Education and NHS England (add link). This was compiled following feedback from forums to regional steering group members and from discussions we have seen on our closed social media groups.

In our meeting with the Minister we re-iterated the key messages in the paper – namely that they could not take a blanket approach to children and young people with special educational needs and emphasised the key points:

  • The importance of supporting our families to have choice and control as much as is possible to protect their families in the most appropriate way.
  • We relayed the critical role schools/colleges and residential placements can play in some of our children lives and how it would be helpful for some families to continue to access the often vital support this can provide their children.
  • Alongside this we also posed the concerns about access to medical support and social care when services are also suffering from limitations of staff and restrictions due to isolations. We are pleased to see the recommendations
  • Finally, we urged the Minister to continue to coproduce the government response with the NNPCF

It is clear there is a challenging road ahead, and as we learn more about the pandemic advice will continue to evolve. We feel the best way we can support families is to reiterate to the DfE, NHSE, and Ministers the importance of clear and concise messages. We are pleased to see the recommendations we asked be considered have been heard and have influenced recent government proposals.

The NNPCF are listening to the concerns forums are sharing, both from within your communities and from within the forum itself. We are all impacted by the current situation in a variety of ways and are rightly concerned and trying to ensure our families are kept safe and well during this difficult time. We also recognise there will be ongoing challenges for forums which we are raising with the DfE and Contact. We are continuing to be in contact with the DfE and NHSE, we will keep you informed about what we are saying and hearing.

Please keep on telling us of how the response to COVID 19 is playing out in your areas. You can contact your regional NNPCF steering group member or post something on the NNPCF closed facebook page and we will incorporate it into our dialogue with the DfE and NHSE.

The SEND Review

We also talked to the Minister about our submission to the SEND review (insert link). She had read our paper and was interested in many of the key messages we have given the review.

We gave the Minister real examples of where children and young people were being let down by the system because of the failings we describe in our report. We also shared examples from across the country where the recommendations from our report had been implemented. We showed how coproduction with families does lead to greatly improved services and outcomes. The Minister promised to continue to work with us and keep us informed on the progress of the review.

Department for Education Minister for children and families

NNPCF Co-chairs meet with new Children and Families Minister

On Wednesday 26th February, NNPCF Co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia attended a meeting with the newly appointed Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Children and Families, Vicky Ford.

In our meeting, we covered a lot of ground and shared the views of parent carers on the current state of the SEND across the country and what needs to be changed to improve outcomes and parental confidence in the system. It is encouraging that the new Minister is prioritising SEND in her first full week in the job. We passed on some key messages on behalf of parents and carers:

· We emphasised the importance of listening to the concerns of families and intervening early to stop concerns becoming problems and problems becoming crises.

· We discussed the value of coproduction and how the involvement of parent carers was key to all successful decision making. We urged the Minister to ensure that a wide range of views from parent carers is included in the ongoing SEND review.

· We shared our input into the SEND review and including the key points from our 2019 conference (

o Listen to families and intervene early

o Make sure there is enough money and spend it well

o Align incentives for school and system leaders

o Increased accountability

o Right people, right knowledge, right skills

o Lifelong outcomes

o Coproduction

· We discussed the work and reach of parent carer forums.

We will continue to work with the Minister and her team and we are in the process of scheduling further meetings with her. We will keep you updated.

Department for Education SEND Review

NNPCF engagement with the SEND Review

At the NNPCF conference on the 7th November, delegates will have the opportunity to create solutions to the issues facing families for input into the SEND review.

In September, the government announced a “Five years on” review of the SEND system. The NNPCF were delighted with this announcement as the we had asked Nadhim Zahawi, the previous Minister for Children and Families for a clear cross governmental strategy for SEND when we met with him in July.

The NNPCF has been heavily engaged in the early stages of the SEND review, working to ensure that the voice of parent carers is central it work. At the onset of the review we met with Kemi Badenoch, the Minister for Children and Families and asked her to ensure that the review was truly cross governmental and came up with real, hard hitting recommendations that address the root causes. You can find a record of our meeting here

Since then, NNPCF co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia have met with the head of the review team to explain the work of parent carer forums, our lived experience of the SEND system and make some recommendations about what we think needs to change.

In October, members of the SEND review team attended the NNPCF steering group meeting. In our session, we shared feedback from our members on some of the root causes of the issues in the SEND system and suggested a series of changes that would make the system work more effectively for families.

We will also be hosting a session on the SEND review at our annual conference on the 7th of November when attendees will have the opportunity to co-produce some of the solutions to the issues that the SEND system faces. Although they are unable to lead the session because of restrictions on government activities during an election period, members of the SEND review team will be in attendance.

We are also working with the SEND review team to create more opportunities for parent carer forums including working with regions. We will keep you posted.