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ESPCF July Newsletter
Welcome to our July newsletter. As always, lots of news and information to share. But first, a message from Holly Riley-Saxby, our new chair.
It’s hard to believe the summer holidays are already here, and for many of us there will be little change: accessing appropriate provision for our SEND children and young people remains a huge challenge, even as lockdown eases. 
 
Anxieties about returning to school in September are already looming large. We have been working hard to make sure this message is at the forefront of our discussions with the local authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG): SEND-specific communication
 
and support for families around transition plans is vital.
 
This is why we have written to all leaders in East Sussex with responsibility for children and young people – head teachers, local councillors, senior staff at the local authority, the CCG, and MPs – asking for a cohesive voice supporting an inclusive and non-punitive welcome back to school for SEND children in September. We want to assure our members, and the wider SEND community, that we’ll be doing all we can throughout the summer to keep up this message.
 
Holly
24 July 2020
 
 
Letter to Sussex leaders
 
 
As Holly has just mentioned, on 22 July we sent a joint letter, along with other Sussex parent carer forums and charities, to leaders in East Sussex with responsibility for children and young people. Our letter shares suggestions from the parent carer community about how to encourage and support attendance to get the best results for our SEND families, including:
 
  • Not issuing fines to families if children and young people (CYP) with SEND do not attend school, especially in the first term back
  • Not excluding CYP with SEND, especially if distressed behaviour is due to having been away from school for so long, the transition back to school, or because they are not used to the new rules.
 
 
We hope it will reach as many head teachers as possible who might be working into the summer holidays. We also plan to be in touch with schools again, before the start of the September term, to ensure as much as possible is being done to support SEND families and children ahead of schools fully opening.
 
 
Meetings with East Sussex County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group
 
 
Return to school in September
As well as writing to leaders, we have taken the opportunity in our regular meetings with East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to stress how vital it is that any messaging over summer around returning to school in September clearly recognises, and directly addresses, the many concerns of the SEND community.
 
We know that parent carers are worried about provision of therapies, schools’ behavioural policies, withdrawal of courses leaving young people desperately worried about their future, to name just three. It’s really important that we continue to hear from you about the type of support and help you need, so we can take these issues forward in August.
 
 
Summer holiday clubs provision
We asked ESCC to provide us with details about where families can access up-to-date information about summer holiday clubs and provision, without having to trawl through dozens of individual websites - many of which might not have been updated and require people to phone or email.
 
ESCC told us that the first port of call should be the Local Offer website, which has been updated, and new information will continue to be added as hopefully more clubs open during the summer. We were also assured that ESCC is still looking for providers to extend the summer holiday provision.
 
You can read more details in an end-of-term message from ISEND to families here.
 
 
We are aware that many families are facing huge challenges as provision previously relied on has been greatly reduced, if it has even been offered at all. Social care and short breaks are likely to feature as one of our key work priorities for the coming year, so please let us know your experiences: have providers been clear about what is on offer and how to access it?
 
 
Home to school transport
We have been asking ESCC for several weeks for information about when families affected by changes to home-to-school transport contracts will receive news about what to expect in September.
 
ESCC has now confirmed that the communication was sent out on 22 July to the following schools directly affected by the service change:
  • South Downs East/West and Hazel Court School/FE
  • Saxon Mount
  • Cuckmere House
  • Willingdon Hearing Unit
  • Downs View School and College
  • Ark Little Ridge
 
We understand that changes may not take place immediately and that arrangements could vary in the first term because of the impact of social distancing bubbles on transport planning. We are waiting to hear back from transport about its expectations for how ​these schools will communicate this information to parent carers, given that many schools are now closed for the summer holidays. We’ll update you as soon as we get any further details.
 
 
Encrypted emails
We promised we’d keep you posted on progress about the local authority’s secure email system and what can be done to tackle the many frustrations parent carers face when using it. 
 
ESCC has now tested the system from the user-side and acknowledged it does not work well. ESPCF’s recommendations for tackling the problem include exploring the use of unique identifiers to mitigate the need for encryption. This is something ESCC have agreed to consider, along with producing guidance on how to navigate the system, examining how other departments manage information sharing, and looking at good practice examples in other organisations.
 
This is not going to be a quick process but we are pleased ESCC is engaging in finding a positive solution.
 
 
ASD and ADHD pathways
We hope to bring you some news soon about plans for a parent carer focus group to look at changes to ASD and ADHD pathways. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and we’ll also email all members as soon as we’ve got concrete information.
 
 
Risk assessment process
We asked ESCC to keep us updated on the risk assessment process, and in our last newsletter we said we’d report back about what we can share. ESCC provided some statistics, which are included in ISEND's message to families.
 
While on the face of it the percentages appear to reflect an extremely positive process – and for many schools and families this may well be the case – we are cautious about reading too much into these numbers simply because we do not have enough detail about the conversations which took place. For example, parent carers and schools being in agreement about attendance could mean they agreed the provision being offered was not sufficient.
 
 
Other workstreams update
 
 
Ofsted meeting
ESPCF recently attended an Ofsted planning meeting with senior leaders from education, health, and social care, to look at the progress that has been made since the 2016 inspection and, most importantly, the work still to be done.

The forum's priority in this process is to ensure it is a meaningful exercise which really benefits children and young people and their families, and that it is not just “box ticking” for OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission, which all at the meeting agreed was crucial.

We want to make sure we have parent carer reps in the sub groups that will be working around each of five key outcomes, so if this is something you are interested in getting involved with, please email Denise, our engagement coordinator. We'll continue to gain feedback from our members, and we are working on a Facebook live event to cover specific areas and questions. More information coming soon.
 
 
Disability Advisory Group
We attended the Disability and Mental Health External Reference Group meeting on 1 July. Run by the Sussex Police Diversity team working with advisors (such as ESPCF), this group considers how the police can work productively and appropriately with people with diverse additional needs.
 
The main focus of this meeting was on how best to support a person with autism who has been the victim of a crime. A specific pathway is being developed with advisors considering the possible thoughts, feelings and reactions of the victim, and mapping that with the opportunities for police to provide a distinct and supportive service.
 
The group only meets quarterly but there is work that takes place in-between, so if you have any experiences of the police service supporting those with additional needs that could help to improve their processes, please let us know.
 
 
Events
 
Zoom get-together
We recently held our first virtual get-together for ESPCF parent carers. It was lovely to see people - even if just on the screen! You won’t be surprised to hear that there were some common issues, but everyone agreed it was good to catch up and an enjoyable session. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for the next one, which we hope will be during August.
Can you hear me?
Conference workshop
ESPCF was among the contributors at the annual Carers Voices Conference. We talked about to be heard by services and decision-makers, and it was great to meet some new parent carers. We all agreed that meeting other parent carers and sharing experiences is really valuable, and helps to prevent the feeling of isolation.
 
Behaviour policies
The National Network of Parent Carer Forums is gathering information for the Department for Education on school behaviour policies around zero tolerance. If you have any examples, please email us and we can pass these on, so that any issues can be addressed before September.
 
APPG on SEND - inquiry
The All Party Parliamentary Group on SEND recently held a virtual meeting to launch its inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 and partial school closures on children and young people with SEND. If you weren’t able to attend, you can catch up here (there are captions and sign language).
 
 Do you consider yourself a parent carer? If you’re reading our newsletter, then you probably do! However, we thought it would be helpful to clarify exactly who can join the forum – especially after Holly spoke to someone recently who didn’t realise they ‘qualified’.
 
You can join ESPCF if you are an East Sussex parent or carer of a child or young person (age 0 to 25) who has any type of additional need or disability.
Calling all members
As mentioned in our June newsletter, our engagement coordinator, Denise, is still calling all members, but it has been a very busy time – everyone trying to get meetings in and tasks completed by the end of term. So the calls will continue through August and you can let Denise know how the summer holidays are going.
 
And finally...
Remember that if you are an ESPCF member, you are welcome to join our closed Facebook group, which is a supportive community where we can freely share experiences, views and ideas.
 
 
That’s it! Thank you for reading to the end. We’ll be continuing to work during the summer holidays so, as usual, please keep in touch if you can. You can phone us on 0300 770 1367 or email info@espcf.org.uk. We wish everyone a good summer – in whatever form that takes – and take care.
 

ESPCF
July 2020
 
 
 
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