Martin Ford 09 November 2020

Ofsted warns of COVID impact on SEND support

The pandemic has ‘seriously affected’ support for special educational needs an disabilities (SEND), according to Ofsted.

Ofsted made 900 visits to education and social care providers during September and October.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: ‘Across all age groups, children with SEND were seriously affected in both their care and education, as the services that families relied on, particularly speech and language services, were unavailable.’

The report said local authorities had found government guidance to be 'frustrating at times due to it being ever-changing and, at times, overwhelming’.

Elsewhere in the sector, there were concerns about children entering care in an unplanned way, disruption to placements and access to mental health services worsening under COVID-19 restrictions.

In addition, pressures on family courts have ‘significantly impacted’ councils’ ability to issue care proceedings and move children out of care.

The report also found ‘senior leaders across the board are working more intensively than ever and showing remarkable resilience’ despite airing concerns about finances.

Ms Spielman continued: ‘The availability of support and services for children with SEND is a perennial issue, as is sufficiency in the care system.

‘Added to that, the pandemic has led to backlogs in the family courts, which can leave children at risk for longer or, conversely, slow them down from moving to a permanent home.

‘These are thorny issues for policymakers to deal with in good times - they have added gravity now.’

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