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How Covid has affected the lives of the disabled

The findings from a report into how the coronavirus pandemic has affected provision for people with special educational needs and disabilities is a concern, according to a Peterborough charity.
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Parent carers show have struggled during the pandemic (Picture: supplied)

The findings from a report into how the coronavirus pandemic has affected provision for people with special educational needs and disabilities is a concern, according to a Peterborough charity.

The Government has released a report based on six 'interim visits' carried out by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission which were to hear about the experiences of children and young people with SEND, their families and the practitioners and leaders who are supporting them during the pandemic. 

Findings included:

  • Parents and carers who normally relied on established routines, informal and family support networks and specialist services for their children struggled without them
  • Children regressed while parents/carers suffered with their own mental health difficulties
  • Not all families were able to access online provision equally because they did not have the technology or because English was not their first language
  • Those who remained in education throughout were reported to have benefited from the experience and often flourished with smaller class sizes and more support. Others enjoyed being at home and made progress
  • Some families described support from individual practitioners in glowing terms, but weak relationships between families and practitioners deteriorated even further with serious consequences for the children
  • Some families reported receiving little or even no contact from practitioners, while some children did not receive learning support and some were not able to access health and therapeutic services
  • Local area leaders anticipate a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases and staff burnout.

Responding to the report, Louise Ravenscroft, chief operating officer of Family Voice Peterborough, which helps to improve the lives of children and young people with disabilities or additional needs, said: "Throughout the pandemic we have heard from many parent carers whose experiences mirror the findings of the report.

"They said they've been unable to access services and support and are reaching breaking point. They fear what the future holds and worry all the time about whether they or their children will catch the virus. 

"There is no stability and the financial impact has affected many of the families detrimentally. There are also a number of parent carers who have reported that the new way of living has had a positive impact on their children and family with improved educational experiences, improved behaviours and a decrease in familial anxiety.

"We have been working closely with Peterborough City Council and health partners to share our concerns and develop plans together that will go some way in helping families locally manage in these very difficult times. All that has taken place is and will continue to be necessary, but ultimately central government will need to provide more support to enable families to keep going."

During the pandemic Family Voice has been working with the local authority over Section M reports (or equivalent) which were sent out to families to hear about their experiences during lockdown, as well as making sure the Local Offer and Covid online pages were kept up to date.

Family Voice has been sharing experiences of parents/carers in Peterborough with local leaders, as well as offering vital food packages and signposting to available support.

However, the charity is concerned that there is a lack of appropriate government funding to support local SEND delivery, as well as a lack of focus on the issue.

It continues to encourage parents and carers to get in touch and share their experiences so these can be passed on to key stakeholders and help shape policy.

Parent representative Asta Remezaite said: "As a charity we have seen members of the local authority and CCG working tirelessly and going above and beyond to ensure that all Peterborough SEND children have access to an appropriate education and have their EHCPs delivered in full. 

"However, from what I have seen whilst working together with the local authority and the CCG is that a lot of them have been working with their hands tied behind their back as they are only able to do what the central government allows them to. 

"After all, that is where the guidance and the funding comes from."

To contact Family Voice Peterborough, visit: http://www.familyvoice.org/, call 01733 685510 or get in touch through Facebook.