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Dominic Luscombe

SEND and Covid: challenges and opportunities

Our work with local authorities covers a wide variety of the challenges and opportunities emerging from the Covid crisis. A common theme has been how the impact of the pandemic – and our response to it – can be used to accelerate the focus on improving outcomes for people, particularly for those children who will be returning to school at some point following the summer.

Since the start of last year, we have worked with 12 local areas to improve outcomes for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and to reduce demand and cost pressures. Through our work with Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Oxfordshire, we have developed IMPOWER’s Valuing SEND tool – our approach to better understanding needs and focusing on strengths-based practice. Drawing on this experience, I have three key recommendations for responding to the challenge and opportunities which the crisis has presented.

  1. Understand the impact on outcomes for children with SEND. An extended absence from education will disproportionately impact on children with SEND; our recent experience suggests that only a small proportion of children with SEND who could attend school are doing so. It is therefore critical to understand how this is impacting children’s needs, so that the support they require can be adjusted in response. Professionals in educational settings could use the Valuing SEND profiling tool to do this, aiding their ability to more smoothly transition children back into education settings.
  2. Proactively manage demand trajectories. The impact of time away from education – and changes to household employment, income and health – could mean that more children and families need additional help within and outside of school in future. This makes it even more important for local authorities to have a clear and consistent way of linking children’s needs to the support and interventions they receive (which is why some local authorities are trialling Valuing SEND to manage requests for assessment and support). A recent trial in one local authority found that 45% of requests for assessment needs could be met by education settings, without the need for an Education, Health and Care Plan.
  3. Identify and realise opportunities to work differently. Across the public sector we have seen rapid change and innovation in response to the current crisis, including within SEND. For example, we have worked with one client to deliver a virtual SEND panel and trial strengths-based approaches online, delivering a 8% reduction in children requiring an Education, Health and Care plans. Across children’s services, we have also seen numerous creative ways of working with children and families. Recovering from the pandemic won’t be easy, but it does present an opportunity to consider what to focus on in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for children with SEND.

To learn more about how IMPOWER can help you respond to these challenges and opportunities, please contact us.

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