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Disabled Student FAQs: Coronavirus

We're not stopping our work because of Coronavirus, in fact we're stretching our resources even further. We face a significant loss of income during this crisis, so if you've ever considered donating to Disability Rights UK, now is the time! We're committed to keeping our invaluable resources up-to-date. Any amount you give will be hugely appreciated by us and the disabled students we support.

Disability Rights UK Factsheet F78 

These are some of the common queries we receive concerning disabled students. If you cannot find the answer to your question among these FAQs then why not call our Disabled Students Helpline. 

1.  Education, Health & Care Plans

My young person has an EHC Plan. Does the local authority continue to provide the support that has been agreed and outlined in the Plan?

The government has issued a notice under the Coronavirus Act confirming that local authorities must now use their reasonable endeavours to secure and deliver special educational provision set out within an EHC Plan. This means a young persons provision may be different to what is set out in their EHC Plan during the notice period. For example, you may be offered support online rather than face to face.  

Any changes or reductions in the young persons provision would remain in place temporarily. The full range of provision would be reinstated once the temporary disapplication is lifted.

My young person is due an annual review of his EHC Plan. Will the review still go ahead?

Reviews and reassessments of EHC plans must still take place but there is some flexibility over the timing of an annual review. Where it is impractical for a local authority to complete an annual review within the normal timescales due to a reason related to the Coronavirus, the local authority must complete it as soon as reasonably practicable.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 does provide for the possibility of a temporary relaxation of duties on local authorities, including the requirement to carry out annual reviews where it is considered to be appropriate and proportionate in all the circumstances relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus. However, a notice has not yet been issued at this point in time.

We are finding that in order to manage their caseload during the crisis local authorities and schools are taking steps to hold reviews remotely via video conferencing or telephone. Please check with your local authority or school.

Does the local authority still need to carry out EHC needs assessments?

The main parts of the EHC assessment and plan process remain unchanged. The local authorities must consider requests for assessments, gather information, carry out needs assessments and issue plans.

However, the legal timescales have been replaced by requirements on local authorities to act as soon as reasonably practicable. This is in force from 1 May to 25 September 2020 and reviewed on a monthly basis.  This means that local authorities do not have to keep to the legal timescales for EHC processes if this is difficult as long as the reason is related to Coronavirus.  

Will SEND Tribunal appeals continue?

As of Monday 23 March 2020, the First-tier Tribunal Special Educational Needs and Disability are no longer conducting face to face hearings. Hearings are taking place on paper, by telephone and video conferencing. If you don’t have access to a reliable internet service or telephone, you can make arrangements to use the telephone, IT equipment and internet at your nearest Courts and Tribunal hearing venue.

If you haven’t been able to collate your own evidence for the hearing because of the pandemic, you can vacate your current hearing by telling the Tribunal and re-list at a later date.

2.   Higher Education

My university is now closed, and I am studying remotely. Will I still get my next student maintenance loan payment?

 You will receive the next instalment of the maintenance loan at the start of the summer regardless of your teaching arrangements. 

See Guidance for current students on SLC issues here: www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-for-current-students .

I applied for Disabled Students Allowance in February. I’m waiting for the needs assessment. Will this no longer be carried out due to the Coronavirus pandemic?

Student Finance England have agreed for needs assessments to be carried out remotely. Many assessment centres are doing this by arranging a video call assessment with follow up phone calls where needed. Your needs assessment centre will be able to provide you with further information.

3.   Further Education and Higher Education

Since the Coronavirus pandemic, I have received very little disability related support from my education provider and consequently I am struggling with my studies. I feel my disability-related study needs have changed as a result of switching to remote teaching also. What can I do? Should my provider make reasonable adjustments for me as a disabled student?

The provider should continue to implement reasonable adjustments when remote teaching to ensure that you are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled students.

If your needs have changed due to this method of teaching and require additional support, please speak to the Disability Adviser about your individual needs and they can work with you and the academic department to identify adjustments that can be made to support your studies.

In practice, what might be ‘reasonable’ may be affected by any reduction in resources caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.

For more information on your rights as a disabled student see our factsheet ‘Understanding the Equality Act: Information for disabled students’ www.disabilityrightsuk.org/understanding-equality-act-information-disabled-students.

You may also find helpful our factsheet ‘Adjustments for disabled students’  www.disabilityrightsuk.org/adjustments-disabled-students.  

As a student with a mental health condition, should the education provider be supporting me during the pandemic? The pandemic and new way of studying remotely is causing me a lot of confusion, anxiety and stress which is exacerbating my existing condition. 

In general, your university or college should be providing accessible and clear information about mental health and wellbeing to all students.

As a student with a declared mental health condition, the university or college should be looking at alternative ways to provide you with support during this difficult time, such as offering counselling and mentoring by phone and video conferencing.

Please contact the Disability Officer at your provider if you have concerns about your mental health.

There are many organisations which also offer support to people with mental health conditions which you can contact such as:

  • Student Minds which is a student mental health charity
  • Mind

4.    Further Information

Department for Education Coronavirus Helpline

Tel: 0800 046 8687 Lines are open 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday

Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

 Guidance on temporary changes to education, health and care legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/changes-to-the-law-on-education-health-and-care-needs-assessments-and-plans-due-to-coronavirus

 Coronavirus (Covid-19): guidance on isolation for residential educational settings www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-isolation-for-residential-educational-settings/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-isolation-for-residential-educational-settings

 The Remote Access Family Court: Covid 19 Coronavirus www.judiciary.uk/announcements/the-remote-access-family-court-covid-19-coronavirus

 Office for Students: Student guide on Coronavirus www.officeforstudents.org.uk/for-students/student-guide-to-coronavirus/questions-and-answers/

Office for Students is the independent regulator of higher education in England.  

 Letter written by Michelle Donelan, the universities minister can be seen here: www.officeforstudents.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/coronavirus/letters-from-the-minister-of-state-for-universities

 Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CLC) www.childrenslegalcentre.com/coronavirus-impact-sen .

CLC is part of Coram group of charities and specialises in law and policy affecting children and young people. CCLC provides free legal information, advice and representation to children, young people, their families, carers and professionals.

Contact is a national charity for families with disabled children. They provide information, advice and support.

IPSEA offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Special Needs Jungle provides parent-centred information, news, special needs resources and informed opinion about SEND.   


5 May 2020

Rundip Thind