Covid-19 - Coronovirus - Information and Changes to Services


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Section: Coronavirus

Information and Changes to Services

On this page you will find the links to national information and guidance on coronavirus and also advice and updates from local services who are having to work in a different way with children and families. The following is the information we have received this week. Previous weekly updates can be found here

You may also want to take a look at Wiltshire Council's dedicated Coronavirus page on its website [HERE], which will be kept updated with information about Council services that may be affected by COVID-19.

WPCC’s Returning to School Parent Carer Survey

The WPCC ran a 'Return to School' survey at the beginning of September to gather feedback about what the preparation for the return to school after the summer was like for families. We have written a summary overview of the survey findings which has been shared with the Local Authority. You can read the summary here.

New in-work Job Support Scheme to Replace the Current Furlough Scheme

The government has announced that [a new in-work job support scheme will replace the current furlough scheme from November] in order to try and protect 'viable' jobs over the next six months.

The new in-work Job Support Scheme is intended to support workers and businesses affected by Covid-19 through the winter months. It will start from 1st November 2020 and is expected to last six months.

The Government has also decided to extend the self-employment income support scheme to April 2021, although the amount of help provided is changing.

Letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families

The WPCC has received a copy of an open letter from Vicky Ford, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families. We have been asked to share the letter with children and young people with special educational needs (SEND), their families and carers, and those who work to support them.

The letter provides advice and guidance on several issues, including behaviour, risk assessments, face coverings, specialist and visiting practitioners, mental health and wellbeing, aerosol generating procedures and hospital schools, as well as linking to some of the support available to help.

Please click on the following link to read the letter - Vicky Ford letter to SEND sector 2nd September.

COVID-19 Information - Quick Guide for Parents/Carers

Local colleagues from Public Health have put together a ‘COVID-19 Information - Quick Guide for Parents/Carers’. It explains COVID-19 symptoms and how to respond in different situations. It’s in a ‘What to do if …?’ format, along with what action you need to take and when you can let your child return to school. Click here to take a look at the symptoms response poster.

Wiltshire Council has been allocated £1.586 million from a £300 million government fund to work with the NHS and a range of local partners to ensure a joined-up local approach in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. They have published the Wiltshire Local Outbreak Management Plan (LOMP) which sets out their plans to help Wiltshire respond quickly and effectively should there be a local COVID-19 outbreak, protecting residents and supporting the most vulnerable.

Update on the Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub

The Wellbeing Hub that was set up to help support people in Wiltshire during the coronavirus pandemic has changed and evolved over time. As a reminder, the Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub is available to support anyone who is struggling to access essential supplies or support during the coronavirus pandemic. The helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0300 003 4576 or email: A leaflet has been produced which gives examples of support and the related organisations’ contact details for different areas of need; please see the attachment: Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub Resident Leaflet.

Returning to School in September

The government is expecting that all children will return to school from the beginning of the autumn term. However, in making this statement, the government recognises that returning to school could be a challenge for many children and young people with SEND. On 7th August 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) published an updated [Guidance for full opening: schools]. The guidance recognises the additional challenges for children and young people with SEND and states that:-

“All educational settings have a statutory duty under equalities legislation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children. Many children and young people will have found lockdown exceptionally difficult socially and emotionally. Settings should consider any challenging behaviours or social or emotional challenges arising as a response to the lockdown and offer additional support and phased returns where needed.”

“Following the partial closure of educational and childcare settings from 20 March 2020, we asked local authorities to consider the needs of all children and young people with an education, health and care plan and to carry out a risk assessment. Local authorities were asked to work with schools and parents or carers, to determine whether children and young people would be able to have their needs met at home and be safer there than attending a school.”

“Risk assessments may prove useful now and over the autumn term, in identifying what additional support children and young people with education, health and care plans need to make a successful return to full education. Risk assessments may also prove useful if children and young people have to self-isolate, or if a local outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) requires a school to return to more limited attendance, or temporarily close.”

“Whether individual risk assessments are used to help plan for the autumn term or not, schools should, in the spirit of coproduction, contact parents and involve them in planning for their child’s return to their school from the start of the autumn term. They should also contact and involve young people over 16 who have education, health and care plans. That might include visits to the school, social stories, and other approaches that specialist settings normally use to enable a child or young person with SEND, who has spent some time out of education, to return to full provision.”

It may be helpful to refer to this guidance if your child or young person struggles to return to school in September.

Wiltshire Council has produced a COVID-19 Returning to School Advice for Parents Booklet which has been written to help parents prepare for the return to school and includes tips and FAQs. In the booklet, there is recognition of the importance of a flexible approach in supporting children and young people with SEND to return to school. The booklet says: “Be prepared that for some children with SEND where feasible, transitions may be more gradual with more of a mix of home-learning balanced with school attendance.” You can download your copy of the booklet HERE.

Wiltshire Council has also published updated School Transport Guidance (September 2020) and COVID-19 School Transport FAQs (updated 13th August 2020).

Sudden - Support service for people bereaved by COVID-19 or in any other sudden ways now available

Hospitals and police forces are now able to refer people bereaved in sudden ways (including by COVID-19 and any sudden illness, incident, or suicide), from day one of bereavement, into a new, government-funded, England-wide, professional, free and specialist sudden bereavement service (set up as a pandemic response and for the long term).

The service, Sudden, is by a well-established charity that is experienced in helping suddenly-bereaved people through trained and named caseworkers, operating over the phone. Sudden provides free support and advocacy for up to 10 weeks, with a focus on safeguarding and wellbeing outcomes. Please visit their website: or call their helpline 0800 2600 400.

Exemptions from Wearing Face Coverings

The WPCC has previously shared information about those exempt from wearing face coverings on public transport etc. Please see our [newsletters] for further information about exemptions or the [Government Guidance] (section 5 covers exemptions).

We have been hearing from some parent carers who are distressed having been challenged by the public if their children or young people aren’t wearing face coverings. The WPCC does not as a rule promote services or products that are chargeable, but in recognition of these most unusual times, we are aware of face mask exemption cards, lanyards and clip badges that can be purchased from Disability Horizons. The WPCC is not endorsing these products by promoting them, and this is an exception to our normal practice. You can choose: -

  • Mask exemption travel card plus lanyard plus badge clip
  • Mask exemption travel card plus lanyard
  • Mask exemption travel card plus badge clip only

Prices vary between £3.95 and £5.95 (inc. VAT) depending on the option you choose. Please visit the [Disabled Horizons website] for more information. Please also remember you can download and print a free exemption template from the [WPCC website].

See, Hear, Respond - Barnardo’s COVID Support

Barnardo’s have launched the See, Hear, Respond service to support at-risk and vulnerable children and families during COVID-19, and help reduce potential levels of harm through online and digital support, face-to-face interventions, and targeted work with children who will need help reintegrating back into school. This is planned to run until 31st October 2020.

The service is open to any child who does not have other support networks at this time who you are concerned about. There is no threshold of need or harm that has to be reached to receive a service. However, it is important to note that this service is not a substitute for existing statutory support. If you are concerned that a child is at risk of significant harm then a referral should be made to Wiltshire MASH. If you feel a child is likely to need long term child in need support then a referral into MASH is likely to be a more effective option. This service is aimed at those children who are not receiving support, or who have not met thresholds, but because of COVID-19 and wider problems are struggling and them and their families would benefit from some immediate help in the short term.

If you are concerned about your child/young person, or feel that a young person, (who can refer themselves), can be supported by this service, then please follow the following links for information, support and referrals: -

See, Hear Respond Hub Support: [Support Hub]
See, Hear, Respond Referral Parent/Carer: [Parent Carer Referral]
See, Hear, Respond Child/Young Person Referral: [Self Referral]

There is also a Freephone number for children and families who wish to self-refer, Free phone: 0800 157 7015

Face Covering Exception Rules for People with Learning Disabilities and Autistic People

As of Monday 15th June 2020, everyone must wear a face covering when on public transport if they can, but importantly there are exemptions for those who need it.

People with certain health conditions, disabled people, people who are autistic, people with learning disabilities and children under the age of 11 will not be required to wear a face covering if to do so would cause them distress, harm or cause problems for people who need to lip read or use facial expressions to communicate. This exemption also applies to others whose wearing of a face covering would cause distress, harm or communication problems with the person they are travelling with.
Photosymbols has produced an exemption card template for people to use: simply cut out the relevant card and keep it on you to show while travelling. For the full template click TEMPLATE.

NHS Every Mind Matters

Having good mental health helps us relax more, achieve more and enjoy our lives more. On this site there is expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing including topics such as: tips if you’re worried about coronavirus; sleep; looking after children/ young people; working from home; loneliness, etc.

Click on the following link to find out more - [Every Mind Matters]

Exemption from Wearing Face Coverings on Public Transport

The intention behind the new face covering rules that came into force on June 15th 2020 is to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The regulations could see people fined or told they cannot travel if they fail to wear a mask.

People with autism are among the group of people who are exempt from new rules insisting everyone must wear a face covering on public transport.

Find out more on who is exempt on the government website [HERE]

Also please see the First Bus information which includes how to print out or screen shot on your mobile phone an “Extra Help to Travel Card” (Journey assistance card) which you will be required to show the driver when you travel.
[First Bus Face Coverings Exemptions]

The National Autistic Society (NAS) 'I am autistic card' can also be downloaded free and printed, should that be considered helpful too.
[Autism Card]

Carers Allowance – Changes During Coronavirus Pandemic

If you receive the Government’s Carers Allowance, there are some changes that have happened as a results of the COVID-19 crisis: -

  • Providing emotional support counts towards the 35 hours’ threshold needed for receiving Carer’s Allowance. This applies to: -

  • Carers who live in a different household from the disabled person and whose only contact with them is now going to be in the form of emotional support via the telephone and social media.
  • New claims as well as for those already receiving Carer’s Allowance.

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, new measures (from 30th March 2020) also allow unpaid carers to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets coronavirus or if they have to self-isolate because of it.

  • The Government has decided to stop recovering overpayments for three months during this period. This includes benefit overpayments, tax credit debts or social fund loans. Although most deductions will be stopped automatically, if you have a standing order set up with your bank, you will need to contact them to stop the payments.

You can find more information about Carers’ Allowance Easements on the [DWP Touchbase website], as well as updates on other benefits and DWP services.

Online map to help people see what COVID-19 support is available near to them

There is an online map to help people see what COVID-19 support is available near to them.

Simply type in the town/village/city name or a postcode in the search box and the system will automatically take you to that location and will highlight the support available in that area, which will be marked by red stars. Clicking on the red stars will bring up information about the groups, including their contact details and a summary of the type of support and services they are providing.

This could be a useful resource for any families who are looking for local help. The link to the interactive map is: [HERE]

Government Online Tool to Support with Finding Help

The website has been updated to include “Find Help” which is a signposting tool to support people who may be struggling due to coronavirus. The site covers a range of circumstances and concerns, including feeling unsafe, going in to work, paying bills or being unemployed, getting food, having somewhere to live, and mental health and wellbeing. While the tool will not provide direct support from the government or organisations through this service, it aims to provide some relevant national information and advice -

Benefits Information – Coronavirus

The Department for Work and Pensions has a dedicated website with information regarding the coronavirus and benefits which it is updating daily: please [DWP website].

The website provides information about coronavirus and claiming benefits. Please check this page regularly for updates on the arrangements the Department for Work and Pensions is making to support those who are affected by coronavirus. Currently on the website, there is information about changes to Statutory Sick Pay, changes to Jobcentre appointments, changes to health and disability-related benefits’ assessments, and making a new claim.

DWP Update - September 2020

New Work and Health Programme - employment support for claimants who have been unemployed for at least 13 weeks
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is launching Job Entry: Targeted Support (JETS) on 5th October 2020.

The DWP is extending the existing Work and Health Programme (WHP) to provide early access to labour market support for those made unemployed due to Covid-19.

JETS provision is a new offer which is distinct and separate from WHP. JETS will provide light touch employment support for claimants who have been unemployed for at least 13 weeks and are in receipt of Universal Credit (UC), All Work Related Requirements (AWRR) group and New Style Jobseekers Allowance.

Participation in JETS is primarily voluntary, although work coaches may expect some claimants to attend the scheme as part of their Claimant Commitment. Claimants will remain on the provision for 6 months.

The JETS offer is based on getting participants into employment, building on providers’ links with employers at local level. It will include (but is not limited to): -

  • assessment of employment support needs
  • help with IT skills, job search, CV writing, interview support
  • skills analysis including identifying transferable skills to consider different employment sectors/routes and ways of working
  • broader confidence and self-efficacy building
  • support for anxieties about working in a Covid-19 environment including potential access to mental health and wellbeing support
  • signposting to skills, support and other support and training, including WHP and Intensive Personalised Employment Support (IPES) if more intensive support needs are identified and they are eligible

DWP Update - June 2020

Sign Language Videos on Coronavirus and Benefit Changes
The Department for Work and pensions (DWP) has produced a range of British Sign Language videos on Coronavirus and benefit changes. These include new content for Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay.

You can view these videos on the [DWP YouTube Sign channel].

It is planned to add videos regarding Access to Work, PIP, Carer’s Allowance and Child Maintenance in the near future.

DWP Updates - 27th April 2020

Help if You are Looking for Work or Looking for Staff

From Monday 27th April, the DWP has launched new [JOBHELP] and [EMPLOYERHELP] websites. These offer labour market information for people looking for work now, and advice for employers to help recruit them.

Video Relay Service for Universal Credit

The Video Relay Service (VRS) has now been extended to people claiming Universal Credit. Over the coming months VRS will be further extended into all DWP services. VRS is already available for British Sign Language (BSL) people who claim DWP disability benefits as well as Access to Work.

VRS enables BSL people to contact DWP via a BSL interpreter. You simply use a video link accessed through your computer, smartphone or tablet. The interpreter will then speak to a DWP agent relaying the conversation by phone. There is no need for anyone to be in the same location and you do not have to book the service in advance.

This means that you and the DWP agent can have a telephone conversation in real time.

[Find out more]

New Style Employment and Support Allowance online claims

You now apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance online, where you are not already claiming Universal Credit.

Making an application online instead of over the phone should streamline the process to allow greater access to claimants and speed up processing times.

People who are unable to use the new online service can continue to make an application over the phone and the normal reasonable adjustment process continues to apply for anyone who needs it, for example using Braille or large print communications.

For anyone who has applied for Universal Credit, or is already receiving Universal Credit, they should sign in to their Universal Credit account and use their online journal to inform their work coach or case manager about applying for New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

More information is on [GOV.UK]

UPDATE from DWP on Benefits Support - 22/04/2020
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has experienced a huge increase in claims and our phone lines have been extremely busy as a result. We have taken urgent action to boost capacity, by moving large numbers of existing staff to help our front line colleagues, and we’re recruiting more.

New claims to Universal Credit should be done [online] where possible. Customers do not need to call DWP to arrange an appointment and they shouldn’t attend the jobcentre.

People making new claims for Universal Credit no longer need to call DWP as part of the process. Instead, a bolstered team are calling claimants back if they need to check any of the information provided as part of the claim. This change has been in effect since 9th April 2020. It should free up phone lines for those unable to claim online.

All of this will mean our staff can make more calls, ensure claims are progressed as quickly as possible and get much needed support to those who need it.

Key websites
GOV.UK is the primary site for all the key information to support individuals, businesses and other organisations. Here is a link to the dedicated pages [GOV.UK: Coronavirus], which includes information on how to stay safe.

DWP’s employment and benefits support
The [Employment and benefits support] website includes the latest guidance and messages on sick pay, existing benefit claims, new claims to benefit, self-employment, housing and more.