SEN Assessment Team Information for Families

updated 18.5.20

This information has been put together to help answer some of the initial questions arising from recent announcements.  It is acknowledged that the situation is frequently changing, and we will respond to any changes by issuing further guidance.

New guidance associated with pupils returning to school.

Children with EHCPs remain part of the cohort of pupils prioritised for attendance at school, alongside the newly eligible groups of pupils in mainstream schools in Years R, 1 and 6.  

In addition, pre-school settings including childcare settings are also being asked to welcome children back.  The newly eligible pupils are encouraged to attend from 1st June 2020 provided the government’s 5 steps of pandemic recovery are met.  

Secondary schools, sixth forms and further education colleges have been asked to offer some face to face support to supplement the remote education of year 10 and year 12 students.

Special schools and special post 16 institutions have been asked to work towards a phased return of more children and young people irrespective of year groups. 

What does this mean for my child or young person with an EHCP?

Children in mainstream schools:

If your child/young person is in a mainstream school the school will continue to consider the suitability of their attendance through the risk assessment process.  They should do this in consultation with you.  

If your child is in Year R, 1 or 6 the school will contact you as part of the process they put in place to welcome that whole year group back.  

Schools are currently planning how they will do this, taking into account new guidance associated with social distancing and the safe support of all members of the school community.  

Your school will also need to consider any specific transition support your child will need to support their additional needs and should discuss this directly with you as part of the planning process.

If your young person is in year 10 or 12 the school will need to consider their needs in the design of their face to face opportunities and should be in touch with you or the young person direct to arrange this.

Children and young people in special schools:

Special schools will need to phase the return of pupils to their schools.  They need to follow the national guidance which will enable them to support social distancing where possible and therefore they will need to have a reduced number of pupils in at any one time. 

The geographical area and size of their classrooms may mean that they cannot yet offer places to all pupils as this is not safe. They may consider flexible approaches to attendance (for example part-time) or they may consider that for some learners, it is safest to continue with online learning in the way they have so far.

The special schools will use the risk assessment process in consultation with you to enable them to agree placements and support plans going forward.  

They must consider any increase in numbers on site very carefully to try to keep everybody safe and well.

Headteachers from our Special schools know their communities best and so they will be liaising with parents and carers directly about welcoming more pupils into school. They will also be liaising with appropriate partners such as health teams and school transport.  It is worth noting that the safest arrangements for pupils who are eligible for transport assistance to school may take more time than usual to arrange.  If this applies to you, your school and/or the school transport team will keep you informed regarding these processes.

The latest DfE guidance associated with implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings can be found here:

This guidance includes information about children and young people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable or extremely vulnerable.  It is important you read these sections if they are applicable to you and discuss the implications with your setting and relevant medical professionals to inform decision making around school attendance.

What if my child is in a newly eligible year group but I do not want them to return?

Children in the newly eligible year groups are strongly encouraged to return to school, however the government has confirmed that families offered places but who choose not to accept them will not be fined.

Pupils under EHC needs assessment currently.

The Local Authority is considering these requests in line with current statute. 

It is important that families understand that whilst every effort will be made to process the agreed assessments and seek the required advice the process may be subject to unavoidable delays due to the ongoing situation. 

The SEN Assessment Team will keep families informed.

Information about all professionals contributing to EHC needs assessment:

  • Partners ordinarily expected to contribute to EHC needs assessment will endeavour to provide appropriate assessment and written advice within the prescribed timeframes.
  • Any report will need to have wording inserted that provides relevant context about how the assessment was undertake e.g. if the young person could not be seen in their education setting.
  • It should be noted that whilst every effort will be made to offer alternative arrangements if staff are absent from their roles due to self-isolation requirements/ill-health then reports from these professionals may not meet statutory timeframes.  A decision regarding the suitability of an EHCP will not be made until appropriate reports are available.

Exceptions to statutory timeframes associated with EHC needs assessment.

The DfE provided guidance which came into force on the 1st May 2020, you can find it here:

Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19).

This guidance relaxes duties around statutory timeframes for EHC needs assessment where elements of the process are not practical for reasons related to COVID-19. It does, however, require that Local Authorities continue to process assessments as quickly as possible and requires contributors to the process to consider other methods of assessment (virtual) to enable them to provide advice to the process.

The Local Authority must have the correct advice to enable them to make a decision about the suitability of issuing an EHCP and to enable them to correctly populate such a plan.  

In West Sussex our colleagues in other services such as the Educational Psychology Service or health teams will be endeavouring to provide advice as best they can in these circumstances.  The SEN Assessment Team will use this advice to process assessments as promptly as possible.  They will not, however, be able to make decisions where there is key information missing and your contact in the team will keep you informed if the usual timescales are affected for your child’s assessment.

What happens with Annual Reviews?

The DfE provided guidance which came into force on the 1st May 2020, you can find it here:

Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19).

This guidance provides extra flexibility over the timing of Annual Reviews, where, for a reason related to COVID-19, the review cannot be completed in the usual timeframes.  However, it should be completed as soon as is reasonably practicable.

The guidance also notes that priorities for review should be identified by the Local Authority and in West Sussex we consider settings should continue to prioritise:

  • Pupils where there has been a significant change in needs or circumstances
  • Children who are looked after
  • Children approaching transition in the next academic year

Annual reviews may need to be conducted in different ways i.e. remotely, however the principles of family and young person voice within these processes remain unchanged.  If a delay is required to the timing of the process the setting should discuss and agree this with the family and alert the SEN Assessment Team.

Will my child get all the provision in their EHCP?

The DfE provided guidance which came into force on the 1st May 2020, you can find it here:

Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19).

This guidance temporarily lifted the statutory duty on local authorities to maintain the precise provision in EHC plans; with local authorities needing instead to apply ‘reasonable endeavours’ to support these children and their families.  The changes are in place for 1 month initially.

The changes require the local authority or health commissioning body to keep a record of the provision being provided if it is different to that specified in the EHCP.  Families need to be fully involved in the decisions around this delivery and why changes are needed, and the provision delivery/changes should be subject to review.

West Sussex SEN Assessment Team is beginning engagement with settings around these requirements.  We will be asking school’s to initially analyse changes to provision and engage with families around this.  They will then provide the details of their analysis to us.  If, however, you have a concern currently please do get in contact with your usual SENAT contact or use the shared email addresses below.


In line with current guidance the SEN Assessment Team will be mainly working from home for the foreseeable future.  The team is very fortunate to have the required technology, including phone and email access, when working remotely in this manner.  Telephone numbers and email contact details remain unchanged.  

There are processes in place to manage post, however communication with the service electronically going forward will be the most sensible approach.  If you don’t have an email address the following shared addresses will be checked during working days and information will be passed on:

Our thoughts:

May we take this opportunity to acknowledge the challenging circumstances we are all currently in and thank everyone involved in supporting children and young people with SEN&D for their ongoing support and care.

Jo Hill

Service Manager

SEN Assessment Team


Benefits Advice and Information – your questions answered!

Robert Hayes: Welfare Benefits Advisor, Short Breaks Commissioning, People ServicesWest Sussex County Council Mobile: 07850240874 | External: 033022 22569 | E-mail:


1.My child doesn’t have a diagnosis, can I still apply?  

Yes, you can apply but you will need supporting evidence about their condition or how their behavior impacts upon theirs and the family’s life. 


2.I am a new expectant single mum with my first child that is confirmed as Down Syndrome what benefits should I be looking into and how do I go about it all? 

You can claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from birth, but in reality, it will be after 3 months, as the criteria states that the person must have had the condition/illness for 3 months and expected to last for at least 6 months. It is difficult to make a claim for a young baby as you have to demonstrate what you do above and beyond the needs of a baby of the same age.

If your baby receives DLA at either the middle or high rate care component, you will be able to make a claim for carer’s allowance as long as you meet the criteria for qualifying, (see q4).


3.Do I need a GP or school to support my application? 

It helps support your claim to have as much evidence that you can. It would be helpful to talk to the school about how your child presents, as they may not see extremes of behavior that your child may exhibit when they are with you. The GP will be asked for medical records, so having them onside helps your application. If there is a Consultant’s report, or anyother, that will also help.


4.Am I entitled to Carer’s Allowance, I am a parent after all? 

Yes, you can claim Carer’s Allowance as long as you meet the criteria, which is, the person you are caring for, must be in receipt of the middle or higher rate of the care component of DLA, or daily living in Personal Independence Payments. You must be caring for the person for at least 35 hours and not earn more than £128 per week. Please remember, claiming Carer’s Allowance, may affect other benefits you receive.


5.What are the top tips for completing a DLA application – can I do it online? Should I take a copy? 

It is always advisable to keep a copy, and you can claim on-line for DLA, but not PIP. I attach my Top Ten Tips.


 6.I am a parent, why should I complete a DLA form? It feels wrong…

You may have more expenses with a child who has a disability. You can use the money for any purpose that will enable the child to have a fulfilling life. It could be for therapy sessions or an additional piece of equipment.

Many parents feel the same as you but claiming DLA is a gateway to other benefits. This is about your child and what is best for them.


7.Do I have to use the DLA money for therapies?

No, you don’t have to use DLA for therapy but you can if you wish. The money is for anything you feel will enable the young person to achieve their full potential or, to relieve pain/anxiety to name but a few.


8.Is there anyone like Robert who helps adults with PIP? Or can he as well?

I am able to offer help until the young person reaches 25. After that age, there is no specific person, but there is help available – please see this factsheet from Carers UK for more information and contact numbers.


9.I’ve just received a letter regarding my daughters DLA & that as she is 16yrs old in sept 2020, but she still has a year left at school from sept she will be going over to PIP?

Yes, PIP is claimed after her 16th birthday. I would strongly recommend that you claim PIP when they write to you.


10.Hi, I need help on DLA application that is due to renew in June but I don’t have all the paperwork from hospital because of the lockdown as daughter is housebound. Any help would be really appreciated 

Renewals and face to face appointments for DLA and PIP are being extended for 3 months. I would suggest completing it as much as possible and state clearly that supporting evidence will be following later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you scan over to me your completed form, I will look it over and make suggestion/amendments via email.


11.How do I book a 1:1 slot to discuss a PIP tribunal?

Please use the referral form on this page:


Top Ten Tips for completing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) application forms 

Request a form by calling 0800 121 4600 (Freephone. Alternatively, you can download a DLA form (approx. 70 pages) and find further information on all benefits by following the link   

  1. Don’t be scared of the form, take your time and read the questions properly. Familiarise yourself with the eligibility criteria for DLA/PIP.  
  2. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, the Decision Maker will be more focused on what the issues are. 
  3. Avoid words like ‘sometimes or occasionally’. 
  4. Base your answers on the worst day possible with your child. Be honest, don’t overthink the question and don’t assume the person making the decision will know about the disability or condition. You are comparing a child with a disability to one without a disability so focus on what extra you have to do. 
  5. Keep a diary. You will find this useful as you will underestimate what you do to help your child and the time it takes. Remember it is not only physical help; it is prompting, encouraging, explaining and supervision too.  
  6. Don’t just tick boxes but give explanations wherever possible and add additional pages if necessary.  
  7. Ask a friend to look over the form once you have completed it  
  8. Include good supporting evidence. Maybe ask family/friends to write a short supporting letter stating how things are, not what they want it to be. 
  9. Keep a copy of your completed form 
  10. Look at local and national websites as you will find dedicated information and advice for DLA/PIP claims for specific advice including:   
West Sussex Local Offer 
West Sussex Parent Carer Forum 
Government Website 
Citizens Advice 
Turn 2 Us 
Reaching Families 


Once completed, return the form in the pre-paid envelope included in the pack, by the date requested on the form and the claim will start from the date it was posted by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP). 


Benefits information available via WhatsApp

People can now access the most up-to-date benefits and support information via their smart phones, using WhatsApp.

The service, which can be accessed by sending ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to 07860 064 422, has been launched to help combat the spread of incorrect information and to make the correct information easily accessible.

The GOV.UK service currently has more than 312,000 unique users, and has sent more than 2.6 million messages since its launch on 25 March 2020.

DWP is one of the first government departments to provide information via the service which includes information on benefits support available, how to check if you are eligible and how to apply.