Coronavirus Act: Removal of Children and Families Act easements

Government recommends sections of the Coronavirus Act 2021 are expired, including Children and Families Act easements.

Children playing together, some in wheelchairs, some notCoronavirus Campaign update

ALLFIE would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for helping us with our successful campaign, to put pressure on Government to remove the Children and Families Act’s easements.

In addition, we would like to thank Inclusion London, Disability Rights UK and Liberty for supporting our work.

The Government has published its COVID-19 Response: autumn/winter plan. This recommends Parliament remove Ministerial powers, under the Coronavirus Act 2020, to temporarily close schools and suspend or modify Children and Families Act provisions around local authorities’ duty to secure SEND provision in a child or Young person’s Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). This includes statutory time scales for completing Education, Health and Care Assessments and Plans.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 Provision of Remote Education (England) Temporary Continuity (No.2) Direction, which requires schools to provide remote education for pupil(s) requiring to self-isolate on COVID-19 health grounds, has been extended for 2021 to 2022 academic year.  As with the 2020-2021 direction, the Secretary of State for Education has set out expectations that include the number of hours remote education provided for children at different key stages.

Whilst Further and Higher Education institutions fall outside this direction, nevertheless there is an expectation that remote education will be provided for their students if self-isolating because of COVID-19 health grounds.

What this campaign has raised going forward, is what happens when local authorities are not under an absolute duty to arrange SEND provision for Disabled children and Young people. The evidence has been overwhelming that schools only having to use their reasonable or best endeavours to secure SEND provision, often means nothing is arranged for Disabled children and Young people in educational settings.

ALLFIE will be continuing to highlight the dire consequences of weakening local authority’s and mainstream schools duties around arranging SEND, as per Coronavirus Act provisions, as evidence for why the Children and Families Act must not only be maintained but strengthened in line with UNCRPD Article 24’s requirements.

Further, we need to ensure that blended learning is incorporated into mainstream education settings so that Disabled children and Young people are able to continue to be part of their school or college community.

We are still keen to know about your experiences of remote education 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact: Simone Aspis, ALLFIE Campaigns and Policy Coordinator