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Minister insists disabled pupils are ‘No.1 priority’ after parents say they’ve been ‘abandoned'

Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,788 Disability Gamechanger
edited December 2020 in Parents and carers
The quotes below have been taken from this article on The Metro.
The Children’s Minister has moved to reassure parents of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) that they are a ‘number one priority’ after many said they felt abandoned and isolated during the pandemic.

Vicky Ford MP responded after Metro.co.uk featured the stories of families who described feeling ‘exhausted’ trying to cope at home as Covid-19 disrupted schooling and curtailed wider health services. 

However she dampened hopes that some vulnerable children could move higher up the prioritisation list for the new Covid vaccine.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Mrs Ford said: ‘The pandemic has been especially challenging for vulnerable families and that would include families of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
Mrs Ford cited the Government’s £37million fund for children with complex needs as well as a £1.5billion increase to the SEND budget, representing a 24 per cent rise over two years, and nurses, therapists and other professionals resuming their duties through schools.
One of the most challenging groups to support has been pupils with heightened infection control requirements, such as those who are fed through a tube.
Mrs Ford said today the ‘vast majority’ of children with the most acute needs have returned to school with the support they need and respite is being provided for parents through local authorities. 

The MP for Chelmsford, speaking via Teams, pointed to further measures taken by the Government to ensure that schools can reopen after the Christmas and new year holidays. 

She said: ‘For next term, rolling out mass testing into secondary schools will help to make sure they are even more Covid-secure than they were in the past. It’s been shown to work in other areas and it will mean that fewer students are sent home to self-isolate and we able to identify more quickly if people are asymptomatic carriers. 

‘The other thing we are constantly looking at throughout the pandemic when we’re giving support to schools is whether special schools need more of that support, because they often carry higher costs. 

‘So that’s why for example with our £1billion catch up funding, three times more went into a special school than into a mainstream school per pupil. Special schools have been able to use that, for example, on therapies and mental health treatment as well.’
Mrs Ford said: ‘There is a call from some organisations to say can those children who find social distancing challenging because of their needs be higher up the prioritisation list for vaccination. 

‘The problem is that while we know the vaccine stops you from getting the disease, we don’t know if it stops transmission. It’s something I have raised with health teams and I know charities have written to the Health Secretary about it. I am watching very closely but I am not sure that prioritising the vaccine because of social distancing actually solves the problem.’ 

The Disabled Children’s Partnership, a coalition of more than 70 charities, has found that 72% of parent carers were under increased strain to care for children and their siblings as the country moved out of the first lockdown. 

Nearly half said their children’s physical health had declined, according to the Left in Lockdown report, with many feeling ‘exhausted, stressed, anxious and abandoned by society’.
Mrs Ford added: ‘We have prioritised children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities from day one. 
‘We have kept schools open for those with education health and care plans and we know that has to be on a case-by-case basis but I am prioritising children with special educational needs the whole way through.’

Do you think disabled children have been a number one priority during the pandemic? Has your child been able to attend school as usual? Do you think disabled children should be prioritised regarding the coronavirus vaccine?

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