To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what (a) support and (b) funding is available for local authorities to support parents, relevant therapists and educators for the effective delivery of vulnerable children’s education, health and care plans in the home.
It remains very important for children and young people to attend their education setting, to support their education and wellbeing. There are, however, a small number of children and young people who are clinically extremely vulnerable who are advised to stay at home, except for specific purposes. There will also be some children and young people who are self-isolating and, therefore, not able to attend their education setting.
Where attendance would be contrary to government guidance or legislation on the COVID-19 outbreak, settings have a duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children. We have worked with schools to co-design the remote education service for schools, further education providers and teachers. In addition, the Oak National Academy provides free video lessons across a broad range of subjects, including specialist content for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The department has invested over £195 million to support remote education and access to online social care, with over 340,000 laptops and tablets being made available this term to support disadvantaged children. This supplements over 220,000 laptops and tablets and over 50,000 4G wireless routers already delivered during the summer term.
Those providing care or support to meet a child or young person’s everyday needs can also continue to visit them in their home, ensuring they follow social distancing guidance where close or personal contact is not required. This includes for the delivery of therapies that would normally be provided in an education setting. NHS England’s medical directorate are the professional lead for therapists and the department continues to work closely with them and Public Health England to ensure that the needs of children with SEND are appropriately prioritised.
Where a child who is clinically extremely vulnerable has an Education, Health and Care Plan, parents, education settings, health professionals and local authorities should work together to agree the best arrangement for that individual child and their family to ensure that they continue to receive the support they need. The department engages regularly with local authority SEND leads to provide support and challenge, including around undertaking their statutory duties where there are specific concerns that children are not in their usual setting.
Local authorities have been allocated a further £4.6 billion to help their communities tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. This funding is un-ringfenced, recognising local authorities are best placed to decide how to meet the major COVID-19 outbreak service pressures in their local area, including support to children’s services.
We will also be investing £730 million into high needs during the 2021/22 financial year, which represents a 10% increase, coming on top of the additional £780 million invested during the 2020/21 financial year. This means the high needs block will have grown by over £1.5 billion, or nearly a quarter, in just two years. This additional investment is taking the overall budget to over £8 billion during the next financial year and will go directly to local authorities to support children and young people with the most complex SEND.