Covid’s devastating impact on Peterborough families with special educational needs revealed

Lockdown caused extreme anxiety, isolation and deprivation for many families with disabled children, but the pandemic has also brought about positive changes in supporting young people with special educational needs, according to a Peterborough charity.
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Family Voice Peterborough’s annual report has highlighted the devastating impact of Covid-19, but there is increased optimism that support in relation to SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) is improving with stronger relationships established with the city council and other key partners.

Throughout the pandemic Family Voice - a charity which helps to improve the lives of children and young people with disabilities or additional needs - has provided food support to hundreds of people, signposted families to appropriate services and highlighted the concerns of residents to key stakeholders,

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It now hopes that with the pandemic easing, improved ways of working will remain embedded.

Christmas hampers being prepared by Family Voice PeterboroughChristmas hampers being prepared by Family Voice Peterborough
Christmas hampers being prepared by Family Voice Peterborough

The charity’s annual report reveals:

. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the wellbeing of SEND families, whether it be financially, accessing food, loss of support services, isolation or lockdown impacting the behaviour of a young person with additional needs

. The vast majority of families taking part in Family Voice surveys have had negative experiences relating to support services and education

. There has been a marked increase in participation between Family Voice, Peterborough City Council, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group and other partner organisations, in part due to a move to virtual working

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. External political, economic and environmental factors are still impacting on how SEND services are delivered and experienced, despite a move towards co-production

. Parents’ views are being taken into account more often at assessment level, particularly among health services

. More parents - especially those from ‘seldom heard’ communities - are interacting with Family Voice, largely due to the pandemic.

Family Voice Peterborough chair John Ravenscroft said: “Although this last year has been difficult we have worked to ensure we have helped as many families as we could.

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“The team here at FVP have worked throughout the pandemic, and I would like to thank them for all their hard work and dedication, especially considering many of them have also had to manage their own caring needs.”

Between April 2020 and March 2021, 310 parents have been involved in meetings, events, online activities and discussions organised by Family Voice, with more than 100 professionals also taking part in virtual meetings and nearly 900 parent-carers having their say through online surveys and Facebook polls.

Findings from the surveys reveal that parents and carers have had an overwhelmingly negative experience during the pandemic in areas including education and support services.

With regards to education, all those who expressed a view on the effects on learning, home schooling and the impact on EHCPs (Education and Health Care Plans) had negative experiences, although all said they received good support from schools.

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Similarly, there was an overwhelmingly negative response for support offered from the city council and communication surrounding support services.

In addition, 25 respondents said they saw increased challenging behaviour from the person they look after, 36 experienced a deterioration in their emotional wellbeing and 24 felt their anxiety increase.

Family Voice is the designated parent carer forum for Peterborough and is a member of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums.

Its main aim is facilitating parent participation and the co-production of services relating to children and young people with SEND.

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The charity’s impact has resulted in a new approach to ensuring the outcomes of EHCPs for children and young people are delivered, while the Local Offer - which details information about what SEND support services are available - has also been improved thanks to Family Voice’s feedback.

Family Voice, which is based at the Orton Goldhay Community Centre, receives the vast majority of its funding from the Department for Education, CCG and council.

This has proved vital over the past year when the charity has been unable to offer its caravans in Skegness and Caister-on-Sea to families for respite, although bookings for both are now available.

Instead, it has instead delivered family activity vouchers for days out, as well as activity bags, hampers, Christmas bundles and wellbeing and pamper packs.

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Moreover, it has continued to hold information sessions and workshops which are available to watch online afterwards through its YouTube channel.

The annual report can be read in full at: