created by SEND Partnership Service published on 01 June 2021

A report has been written by the Council for Disabled Children as part of the Making Participation Work programme, a joint partnership between the Council for Disabled Children and KIDS, and funded by the Department for Education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to all children and young people, and even more so for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Yet not much has been heard from children and young people with SEND about their experience of the pandemic. The large number of children and young people who took part in this consultation shows how much children and young people with SEND want to be heard and how much they have to say.
During February and March 2021 more than 643 children and young people with SEND, 128 parents and 110 professionals who work with or support young people with disabilities shared their views and experiences of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Council for Disabled Children worked with young people and their support workers to choose the questions for the surveys and focus groups. They made sure that young people had enough time to think about the questions before the focus groups and that they could choose how they felt most comfortable expressing their views.

What did the surveys want to find out from the young people:

How the pandemic has been for them? What has been the impact of the pandemic on them? What was most difficult? Have there been any positive things?

What additional support young people will need to help as the lockdown ends and schools go back?

Is there anything we can learn from the experience that could help improve things in the future for children and young people with SEND.

A Summary of the report:

  • Not enough support for families: Support for children and young people with SEND and their families changed a lot during lockdown. Some things stopped, like support groups and respite care, assessments and health and social care meetings went online.
  • Learning online or in school: Young people had very different experiences of home-schooling or going into school during lockdown. Some young people really didn’t enjoy studying online from home. Other young people preferred it. The feedback showed how important it is to listen to individual young people and their preferences about learning.
  • Children and Young People's Mental and Physical Health: The COVID -19 pandemic has been a really worrying time for young people for lots of reasons. Not having a clear routine and having lots of change can be really upsetting. Missing friends, family and the fun activities and hobbies that young people normally did was stressful. It put a lot of pressure on young people’s emotions and mental health. It has impacted on young people’s physical health as well as people found it hard to be as active as before and health appointments have been moved online, delayed or cancelled.
  • Returning to School Safely: Young people were worried about how schools and clubs would reopen safely. Concerns included not finding it easy to understand the rules, worries that people were not sticking to the rules and generally being very worried about catching or passing on COVID-19.

Conclusion of the report:

The experiences that children, young people, parents and carers have highlighted through this report clearly communicates the difficulties, pain, anxiety and stress of the last year. For many families it has been an incredibly challenging period.
However, in the stories about what has helped people get through this period there is a glimpse of a possible future where there is a bit more time to relax, consolidate, be flexible, take time with loved ones and explore interests.

To read the full report with some of the responses from the families please view on the Council for Disabled Children's web page: https://councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/news-opinion/news/lessons-learnt-lockdown-highs-and-lows-pandemics-impact-disabled-children-and-young-people

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