DiAS Spring term newsletter 2021

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Issue number 9

Spring flowers

It’s been a term quite like no other, with many children out of school and then back in school, and some in school but in strange circumstances. What is certain is that it’s been a term full of change, which is something we know many children and young people are struggling with. That’s reflected in the number of parents contacting us – last week we had 75 enquiries that needed support from a DiAS Officer. 50 in a week has been our previous maximum! We will get to everyone that contacts us, but for now it may take a little longer than usual.

As lockdown lifts, we’re bringing parents and carers some new and updated services. There is a new training session in development about reviewing an EHC plan. And, our meetings training and sessions about helping your child’s voice be heard are returning. We’re also refreshing and updating our website, to help you find the information you need more easily. There will be a new look and feel to online information for children and young people too.

If you’re interested in helping to support families with a child with SEND, there are two volunteering roles that could be right up your street. DiAS volunteers support the work the team does, directly supporting families as well as providing research and admin support. The Ambassador Volunteers work within their local communities to help families find the information and support they need and to feedback about how services and support are working. You can find out more about these roles in the newsletter below.

DiAS news

Inforamtion and support signpost

New and updated information resources on a range of topics

The DiAS website is always evolving and it’s a great place to start if you need information about a SEND issue. To make the site as accessible as possible, we’ve moved a lot of our resources online onto webpages. This means they can easily be read by everyone, with a PDF document as a backup.

Over the last few months, we’ve added new or updated information about the following topics:

  • lockdown three, useful resources and going back to school
  • checking a draft EHC plan using the EHC hub
  • information for young people about staying safe online, mental health and wellbeing, and tips for learning in lockdown
  • the different areas of special educational need
  • being specific in an EHC plan
  • five important SEND words and terms and what they mean

Road stretching into the distance

More Demystifying SEND sessions

There are four new dates for our popular free online information session about how to find clear SEND information and support - 27 April (currently full), 24 May, 24 June and 12 July 2021, 10.30am-12.30pm.

Whether you’re new to SEND or already on your journey, the session is aimed at parent/carers supporting a child with SEND, who would like to find out more about SEND support. Previous sessions have been full, with a waiting list, so book early!

Ambassador volunteer logo

Ambassador Volunteer training

The Ambassador Volunteer project has been running for about a year and the number of volunteers is steadily is increasing. They’re connecting families in their communities to information, and support. They also collect and feedback themes and trends from their network to Parent Carer Forum Devon, to help shape services.

New induction training for people interested in becoming an Ambassador Volunteer is now available. The training is a three-hour virtual session from 10am-1pm with a short break. Training sessions take place on 28th April, 11th May and 14th June. If you’re interested in the induction training, please complete this form and we will be in touch with you soon.

young person in a meeting

Children and young people’s information about mental health and wellbeing

The last year has brought significant disruption to the lives of children and young people as they have adapted to life with Covid-19. School, friendships, wider family life, social interactions, planning, all became much more complicated.

There is a lot of information and advice available online for young people about mental health and wellbeing. However, it’s not always easy to know where to look or which sources to trust. To help, we’ve developed a webpage for young people that pulls together key pieces of information and advice. We’ve also linked to trusted websites that offer more detailed information on specific issues, as well as organisations where young people can get direct help and support now.

Volunteer word

DiAS volunteer training

Want to make a difference? Need a new challenge?
Volunteer with us!

We are looking for committed volunteers from all areas of Devon to work with us to provide support. We offer extensive training opportunities and a chance to widen your experience and develop your CV. Volunteering with us is also a great opportunity to make a real difference to people navigating the world of SEND support. Our next training dates are 27th and 29th April 2021. Contact Amy, our volunteer coordinator, for more information.

Coming soon!

The word new

New information and training sessions for parents

We’re developing a new EHC Review myth busting information session for parents, where you can learn more about the EHC plan review process and your role in it. The first session is due to take place in June. We’ll post information and booking details on our Facebook page and website when the time comes. But in the meantime, you can email Megan if you are interested in the sessions.

May and June will also see the return of our parent led training sessions around meetings (Better Outcomes) and listening to your child's voice. Contact Jane if you want to find out more.

DiAS logo

DiAS website development

The current DiAS website is more than a few years old and the more information we add to it, the more difficult it becomes for you to find what you need quickly and easily. So, we are working behind the scenes to update and refresh it. We want to improve the structure and the technical stuff in the background, to make it a more helpful experience for you.

We will be grouping information together so that it makes more sense and giving the site a fresh look. That includes creating pages for children and young people that have a different feel. When the site is partly finished, we’ll be looking for parents to test it and see whether it works well. If you’re interested in taking part, contact Sarah, our Information Officer for more information.

Devon news

school children in class

Support for return to school in Devon

A special fund has been set up by Devon County Council (DCC) to support children having difficulties returning to school. The £1.9 million fund is being financed with Government cash to tackle the effects of the pandemic.

DCC wants to be able to provide extra, short-term support, which they might not otherwise have been able to afford. Schools or DCC staff can refer individual children. This support means that if a child is suffering from anxiety or with emotional, health and wellbeing difficulties then they can get that extra help.

Parent Carer Forum Devon logo

Parent Carer Forum Devon (PCFD)

The forum is a group of parents and carers of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) within Devon local authority. Their aim is to make sure that services provided by education, health and care meet the needs of children with SEND and their families.

PCFD has a new website and has been working with SEND services during lockdown to make sure the voice of parents is heard and listened to. The new site includes more information about their work and their influencing role, as well as recordings of Q and A sessions with staff in key SEND services.

Picture of Melissa Caslake

New Head of children’s services

Melissa Caslake has started in her role as Devon’s Chief Officer for Children’s Services. Melissa joins the County Council’s Leadership Group and is responsible for leading on systems and partnerships to improve outcomes for all children and young people in Devon.

Melissa was previously National Director of Safeguarding at the Church of England and before that held the post of Executive Director of Children’s Services for Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea – both of which are rated as outstanding by Ofsted. More recently, she oversaw the provision of support for children affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

DCC logo

Changes to Disabled Children’s Services direct payments

The Disabled Children’s Service in Devon provided a more flexible approach to Direct Payments during the pandemic. Those changes are now coming to an end.

As most community short break support is now running, the Disabled Children’s Service has reviewed the flexibilities which have been in place. As of the 18th April families will no longer be able to use the £250 flexible spend per month and the direct payments policy will return to how it was before the pandemic. Find out more on the Devon Children and Families Partnership website.

Boy in a sensory room

Changes to specialist support

Devon County Council’s Cabinet has agreed plans to bring specialist SEND support back in house when their contract with Babcock ends. These SEND services include education psychology, Early Years support and advice, children missing education, physical and sensory support, social, emotional and mental health, communication and interaction and multi-sensory impairment.

National news

Upset looking child

New action group to boost mental health education

A group of ministers, charities and Youth Ambassador Dr. Alex George are to focus on improving mental health and wellbeing in school, college and university. The new coalition of health and education experts met for the first time in early March to look at the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and education staff across England.

The coalition agreed to take forward more action across a range of areas, including boosting the support available to help children and young people move between schools and year groups. They will also be looking at how schools and colleges can target funding and recovery support to ensure that support reaches pupils who need it the most.

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