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Disabled Children’s Service

Last Updated 9:20am, 1 December 2020


Information about coronavirus is available in different formats and languages, including easy read, BSL and for people who are not online.


We’re working closely with parents and carers during this difficult time to help you to use your child’s direct payments and short breaks plan flexibly and creatively and to make sure your family is receiving the most appropriate support that is available to you.

Things are changing on a daily basis, but we are updating these webpages all the time to keep you informed with the latest information and have worked with the Parent Carer Forum Devon to make sure it’s as easy to understand as possible.

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We are regularly talking to the co-chairs of the Parent Carer Forum to jointly identify issues and try to resolve them and make sure you have all the information you need.

We’ve answered some of your questions below. They are split into sections to help you find the questions most relevant to your situation. If you can’t find the information you need, please get in touch.

Disabled Children's Service

How does my child access support from the Disabled Children’s Service?
Our referral process and criteria remain the same. New referrals need to be sent through to the single point of access team. The referral form and contact details can be found on the Children and Family Health Devon website.

What contact will we have from children’s social care services during the outbreak?
We understand there has been some confusion over the different level of contact families have received from children’s social care.

Based on what we know about children and families, we have individually assessed those who require more or less contact from us. However, if you require additional support or your situation has changed, please contact us as soon as possible so we can support you through this difficult time. All the contact details for the teams can be found at the bottom of this page.

How do I contact the Disabled Children’s Service if I’m worried about my situation at home?
We encourage families to contact us as soon as they feel their situation is deteriorating so we can offer support as soon as possible. If your child has an allocated worker, they should be the first point of contact. If not, please contact the support and advice duty number, which is 01392 385276.

If I need a home visit how will this be carried out safely?
If someone needs to visit your home, they may arrive wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with government advice (for example, a face mask, gloves etc). Please do not be concerned. It is to try to keep you, your family and themselves as safe as possible.

For further information and detailed guidance on the use of PPE for those working in domiciliary care, please visit the government’s website. You can also find out more about the supply and use of PPE on the NHS website.

I need to provide my child’s carers/enablers with Personal Protective Equipment, where can I get this from?
If you are the employer of your child’s carers/enablers and they need personal protective equipment, it is your responsibility to provide this. Guidance regarding the use of PPE can be found here.

You are able to request a supply of PPE from Devon County Council using this electronic form.

How will my social worker support me during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Your social worker will continue to support your family during this difficult time by visiting you as normal, where safe to do so, and maintaining regular contact.

  • For children on child in need plans, social work visits will remain at a minimum of every four weeks.
  • For children in care, social work visits will remain at a minimum of every six weeks.
  • For children on a child protection plan, social work visits will remain at least every two weeks

Your social worker will contact you prior to any visits to discuss the best and safest way to do this. It is possible that more contact will be completed virtually via apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

If you feel that your family situation is deteriorating and you need additional support, please get in touch with your child’s allocated worker as soon as possible. If you make contact with us, we will endeavour to get back to you within 24 hours. If you are unable to get in touch with your allocated worker, or currently do not have one you can use the duty contact numbers below:

  • Support and Advice Duty: 01392 385276
  • Direct Payments Coordinators :
    • Teignbridge, South Hams and West Devon – Rebecca Kelly – 07989527477
    • Exeter, Exmouth, Woodbury, Lympstone – David Johnson – 07581155037
    • North Devon – Debbie Setherton – 07855827924
    • East and Mid Devon – Clare Key – 07817170491
  • Exeter, East and Mid Devon social work team duty: 01392 386183
  • South Devon social work team duty: 01392 381270
  • North Devon social work team duty: 01271 384180

What contact can we expect from community care workers?
In line with our usual practice, families will not receive routine contact from allocated community care workers, unless a family contacts them or the duty worker.

My child’s need is escalating due to not being at school, what do I do?
You need to request an assessment in the usual way. Our timescales for assessment haven’t changed, but it is likely that some of the contact we will have with families will be virtual in order to minimise the risk to everyone.

If you have recently made a request for an assessment or had confirmation an assessment will be completed and you feel the situation is deteriorating, please get in touch with either the Single Point of Access (for new referrals) or the duty number for the relevant team.

Are there any resources available to help support my child?
There are lots of online resources to help you explain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to your child. We’ve created a list on our website, and the Devon Children and Families partnership has links to useful information and advice on their website too.

Devon Information Advice and Support for Special Educational Needs and Disability (DiAS) has information on their website to support you to manage at home, understand how services are operating for now and get help and support if you need it. There’s also advice on supporting children with education at home, getting help if a child’s is behaviour is challenging and information about support from nurseries, schools and colleges.

If my disabled child gets coronavirus (COVID-19) and has to go into hospital, can I go too?
We are seeking advice from health colleagues regarding this and once we have more information we will update our website.

Additionally, if your child is feeling poorly and you’re not sure what to do, you can download the HANDi paediatric app for free expert advice about common illnesses – including advice relating to coronavirus (COVID-19).

What would happen if both parents of a disabled child have coronavirus (COVID-19) and end up being admitted to hospital and there is nobody to look after them?
We want to reassure you that should this situation arise, we will work with urgency to support your family to explore who could provide safe care for your child.

If I have coronavirus (COVD-19) and I’m too poorly to look after my child, can I ask their carer to come back to work? What if they refuse due to the risk of infection?
You can ask them to return to work. If they refused to do so due to risk you would not be required to pay them for their contracted hours, nor would they be eligible for SSP

Return to school in September 2020
Devon’s SEND Local Offer webpage has the latest news and guidance available about the return to school for all children in September 2020.

My child attends a private special school; does the school have to follow the same government guidelines re: PPE as state run schools? 
Yes, the guidance regarding PPE remains the same for all educational settings.

What should I do if I don’t feel the school is using the correct PPE for my child’s health needs?
If you are concerned that your child’s school is not following the correct guidance regarding the use of PPE, please discuss this with your child’s school. All staff in schools have access to gloves, masks, aprons and face shields if necessary. Schools have confirmed that if a child requires additional PPE, they would work with their respective health colleagues and follow their advice and guidance.

Short breaks services

Will my direct payments continue to be paid?
Yes, direct payments will continue to be paid every four weeks.

What enabling support can I expect?
We have made amendments to our direct payment policy to cover this time. Please read it for further information about the use of direct payments during this time.

It is likely that enabling services are going to be severely disrupted during this time and we recognise that it is also difficult to balance the need for support with the strict government guidelines regarding social distancing.

If you are using an agency you will need to discuss what they are able to offer during this time.

The direct payment policy does make suggestions as to how funding could be utilised during this time in order to support children and families.

The direct payments policy has additional information regarding what to do if you are employing someone.

Who do I contact if our support is withdrawn?
Our direct payment policy amendment makes suggestions regarding potential uses for funding during this time. If your support has been withdrawn and you are not sure what to do, please contact your child’s allocated worker or relevant team’s duty number.

  • Support and Advice Duty: 01392 385276
  • Direct Payments Coordinators :
    • Teignbridge, South Hams and West Devon – Rebecca Kelly – 07989527477
    • Exeter, Exmouth, Woodbury, Lympstone – David Johnson – 07581155037
    • North Devon – Debbie Setherton – 07855827924
    • East and Mid Devon – Clare Key – 07817170491
  • Exeter, East and Mid Devon social work team duty: 01392 386183
  • South Devon social work team duty: 01392 381270
  • North Devon social work team duty: 01271 384180

What do I do if my child’s short break is commissioned by Devon County Council from a provider and that support is now unavailable?

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic there has been severe disruption to the services available to children and young people. If your child’s usual short breaks provision is unavailable, please contact your child’s allocated worker or the relevant team’s duty worker so that we can help you to access the support you need during this time.

If I use direct payments to pay a provider but I am not currently receiving a service, do I still have to pay them? There is no requirement for you to pay a provider who normally delivers your child’s short break service if they are no longer able to do so, or if you do not wish for them to do so during the pandemic.

Overnight breaks in our children’s homes

If parents cancel their overnight short breaks due to self-isolating will they get these sessions at a later date?
We will be collating information about all cancelled stays with the aim of postponing them and offering them at a later date, based on an assessment of need and our availability. However, depending on how long the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact services, we may not be able to reschedule every missed session as we won’t be able to fit them all in alongside the standard allocations, but will do our best. This would be relevant up until the end of the child’s current care contract.

Can the children’s homes provide day-care if my child’s school is closed, particularly if my child is staying for two or more nights in a row and would usually be going to school in between?
This will be reviewed on an individual basis with your social worker and our assessment of whether we can offer a safe service based on the remit of our OFSTED registration, staff levels and other children’s needs. Also transport issues will need to be taken into consideration.

What happens if a child who is staying in the children’s homes develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Government advice is that a children’s home should, as far as possible, be treated as a home and should follow the general advice relating to households.

For any children staying full time or for an extended short break the guidance regarding safe care and as far as is possible isolation of the child (e.g. consistent staff caring for them where possible) would apply.

For a child who has just arrived for a short break and shows symptoms, we would discuss with the family how best to manage the child’s care which will normally be at home. Different arrangements may need to be made if, for example, the child is likely to require immediate hospital treatment, or the parent/carer is also showing symptoms. This will be dealt with on a case by case basis and will also have to take into account our ability to provide a safe service with sufficient staff.

How will children’s homes staff protect my child when they are receiving a short break?
All children’s homes staff will follow government guidance regarding frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitising gels. Each home has full infection control procedures, and these too will be followed. Visitors to the homes will be kept to an absolute minimum, and wherever possible consistent staff rotas will be put in place to reduce the level of external contact that your child experiences. All children will be monitored frequently to ensure that if they do develop symptoms these are addressed as swiftly as possible.

Extra funding for families raising disabled or seriously ill children in England

Family Fund has received extra funding worth £10 million from the Department for Education to provide grants for families on low incomes raising disabled or seriously ill children in England this year. This emergency funding has been provided in response to the crisis presented by the Coronavirus pandemic and will help more parents and carers to look after their children. Families can apply for grants to make their lives easier while implementing social distancing measures, including computers and tablets, outdoor play equipment and sensory toys.

Personal budget and direct payments for children – Coronavirus (COVID-19) policy amendment

These are unprecedented times. We want to work closely with parent carers as we navigate this difficult period, to support you to use your child’s direct payments flexibly and creatively, trying to ensure that your family is receiving the most appropriate support that is available to you at this time.

This is a temporary amendment to Devon County Council’s children’s social care direct payments policy due to the coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak and should be read in conjunction with the existing policy.

This policy is effective from 1 April 2020 and will be reviewed every three months until such time that it is no longer required.

Policy Amendment (August 2020) following review

We are now moving into a new phase of managing coronavirus (COVID-19) as a live virus in the community. Steps are in place across society to ensure that we can reintroduce many elements of life that were removed or limited in ‘lockdown’. Children returned to school at the beginning of September 2020. Our policy revisions have taken these changes into consideration.

Existing policy changes and Revisions

Existing policy change at April 2020: There will be a suspension in the retrieval of excess funds during the time for which this policy is in place.
Revision at November 2020: From 1st September 2020, we reinstated the retrievals of excess funds. A retrieval has now been completed and a further retrieval is planned for February 2021. Parent carers will receive a notice of this in writing if they are affected.

Existing policy change at April 2020: You can pay any member of your family to care for your child during this time, however, this cannot be a person with parental responsibility. The person must be over the age of 18 years old. This must also be in line with, and take account of, the government’s guidance on self-isolation for vulnerable people. If you seek to employ anyone else, it must be done in line with employment processes (i.e. a contract, payroll etc). For support with this please contact our Direct Payment Coordinators.
Revision at November 2020: As from 14th September 2020, we moved back in line with the Disabled Children (Direct Payments) (England) Regulations 2001 which do not allow payment of family members. (This was temporarily relaxed due to the strict Covid-19 lock down rules, but now we need to follow the regulations.) Any family who are employing family members should make alternative arrangements. If there are any queries, families should discuss this with their allocated worker as soon as possible to agree next steps. This remains the same.

Existing policy change at April 2020: Flexible use of direct payments – families will need to continue to keep receipts for any purchases made.
Revision at November 2020: The cap of £250 per month spend from direct payments on items to support education, exercise and entertainment was introduced from 17th August 2020. Any item purchased must be in line with the child’s care plan and the agreed outcomes for his or her support. To enable further flexibility, if a planned purchase costs more than £250, then by written agreement with the named worker, the family can put money from the following month towards the purchase. Receipts must be kept and provided if requested.

Essential enabler costs
It is reasonable for an enabler/carer to request expenses which will be incurred whilst they assist the family i.e. public transport or mileage for essential journeys to support the child. We would advise that this is paid at a rate of 45p per mile for a maximum of 30 miles per session. This will allow the enabler to take the child/young person to a nearby town for activities etc. A small allowance can be paid to enablers/carers if they are working during a mealtime. It is expected that this will be no more than £6. The enablers costs of supporting the child/young person to participate in activities can be funded through Direct payments. However, it is expected that any discounts available to carers are used.

Transfer of funds to personal accounts
It is not necessary or appropriate to transfer monies from the Direct payment accounts to personal bank accounts as the Devon card can be used to make payments to providers and for services in the same way as a personal bank card. The only circumstances where this may be necessary is if cash is required to pay a trader who does not accept card payments. Permission should always be sought by the family.

Use of direct payments

Due to the frequently changing situation in respect of the availability of enablers and services, use of direct payments will also be as flexible as possible to support families (within legal limits). Please see the frequently asked questions below for guidance on what changes are or are not permissible.

If you remain in any doubt, please contact your child’s allocated worker, relevant team’s duty number or the Direct Payment Coordinators (contact details below). See table above for more detail on use / amount of flexible spend of direct payments.

Frequently asked questions

Please note the information and references in this section are known to be correct at the time of writing on 19th November 2020. They will be updated in line with latest government advice.

Can I have an increase in my direct payments because of the school closures?
All children are due to return to school in September 2020. Should you feel your child’s short break package is not adequately supporting your family, please get in touch with your child’s allocated worker or the relevant teams duty worker.

Can my employee come to my home to care for my child?
Yes, if both you and they feel that is safe and appropriate. Devon County Council do not oppose enablers/carers or personal assistants working from your home. However, this should be in line with the government’s guidance on social distancing and protecting vulnerable people.

There’s more advice about employees delivering care in your home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on the government website.

Can I use my direct payments to buy food, basic items or household appliances?
In line with our existing policy, direct payments are not to be used for the purchasing of food (including fast food, groceries or restaurant meals) or household appliances.

If your family is experiencing extreme hardship as a result of the pandemic, you may be able to access Section 17 (Children Act 1989) funding to pay for food and other essential items. This is separate from direct payments for short breaks support and would be assessed by a social care professional.

If you think this may apply to your child, please contact your child’s allocated worker or relevant team’s duty number. You will need to have written confirmation that you can use funds in this way as an exceptional circumstance.

The government has stated that schools can provide vouchers or meals to those children who usually receive a free school meal, and they will be reimbursed for this. If this applies to your child, please contact their school to find out more.

Can I use my direct payment to buy equipment or technology to support my child to be stimulated and entertained during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

Wherever possible, the short breaks funding should continue to be spent in the way in which your child’s plan sets out. However, we recognise that school closures and disruption to short break services have had a significant impact upon children, parent carers and families.

Therefore, Children’s Social Care do currently agree that for the period up to the end of January 2021 direct payments can be used to buy equipment or technology to support a child’s education, entertainment and wellbeing, up to £250 per month. This would be in place of the agreed short breaks plan and would not routinely attract additional funding. If you wish to spend more than £250 on a single item, this can be saved up for by prior agreement with your nominated worker. Receipts or other proof of purchase will be required as usual and these may be requested as part of the ongoing audit process for direct payments.

Examples of this may include art and craft supplies, computer applications, sensory toys or equipment, tablets up to maximum of £150, exercise equipment, educational resources, subscriptions (for example Netflix) capped at £6 per month.

Please note that any equipment you purchase for your child must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions and with appropriate level of supervision. While we recognise that some children have sensory needs that are soothed by water, direct payments funding, from 27th July onwards, must not be spent on pools or hot tubs. Families who have already purchased these items should be very mindful of the risks involved in their use, both from risk of drowning, and also chemical burns and inhalation of chemical fumes.

Can I use my direct payments to pay someone who has not had a DBS check?
As per our current policy it is our strong recommendation that all individuals employed to provide care to a child or young person under the age of 18 should have a background check with the DBS. However, the local authority is not legally permitted to insist on a DBS check being completed. The government has issued new guidance regarding DBS checks during the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic.

Information for parents and carers who employ staff

We recognise that the government’s support for businesses (including employers and employees) is complex. We have tried to explain what this means for you if you employ staff, but if you require further support in navigating this system please contact our direct payment coordinators. The following information is what the government has advised.

Self-isolating employees are legally defined as being unfit to attend work. They should, therefore, notify you of their intention to self-isolate in accordance with your sickness and absence procedures. They have the right to remain away from work for 14 days from the time symptoms becoming known. Not every employee is entitled to statutory sick pay. Please see appendix 2 for details on eligibility criteria. More information and advice can be found on the ACAS website.

If you still remain unclear as to whether you need to pay your employee statutory sick pay, please contract our direct payment co-co-ordinators for advice.

From July 2020, families who employ staff will need to refer to the latest government guidelines relating to employed staff. As above, ACAS can provide helpful information.

If your child’s enablers are self-employed or work for an agency, you are not responsible for paying them sick pay.

If your employee is fit and well but you decide that you would rather not have them working during this pandemic, you would still have to pay them if they are on contracted hours. If they are on a zero hours contract, you would not have to pay them.

With the arrangements for ‘furlough’ moving to the ‘Flexible Furlough Scheme (from 1st July 2020), parent carers who ‘furloughed’ their staff  should refer to the government guidance available via the government helpline 0800 024 1222 – open Mon-Fri 8am – 4pm. Please note that there may be a charge for calls to this number depending on your call plan.

Statutory sick pay

Please note the information and references in this section are known to be correct at the time of writing on the 19th November 2020. They will be updated in line with latest government advice.

Statutory sick pay is payable to employees who:

  • are employees or workers (includes zero hours and casual workers) and have earned on average £118 per week over the last 8 weeks, and
  • have given you the correct notice.

If the employee is not eligible you must provide them with the SSP1 form to explain why. This will allow them to present a claim for possible benefits. The full eligibility for SSP is available on the government website.

Statutory sick pay is paid at a rate of £95.85. Agency, casual and zero-hours workers can get SSP if they meet the eligibility conditions. The government have announced that they will repay payments of SSP, up to 14 days, for each employee.

In normal cases of sickness absence, you can ask the employee for a medical certificate after the first seven days of absence. Under circumstances of self-isolation, however, it is not advisable that you press for such evidence as the current guideline to self-isolating employees is that they are not to go to the GP. It would also be impossible for you to demand evidence of another householder’s private medical affairs where someone else is the reason your employee is self-isolating.

Retaining employees

The government has announced a job retention scheme whereby they will pay 80% of an employee’s wages if they are furloughed. However, recent guidance states that this scheme should not be used for employees who are funded through public sector organisations. Therefore, everything should be done to prevent furloughing your employee as it is unlikely the 80% of their wages will be received back from the government. As of 1st July 2020 the government introduced the Flexible Furlough Scheme whereby employers can introduce workers back on a part-time basis.

It is possible that you could agree a reduced rate of pay for contracted employees if you do not wish for them to work during this period of time (similar to a retainer). Employees also continue to accrue holiday during this time so could use this to cover some of their time off. For zero hours employees, you do not have to pay them anything, although you could consider paying them a nominal retainer – this would need to be negotiated between yourself and your employee.

You may also want to speak with your child’s allocated worker or duty worker to explore how your employee may continue to support your child during this time.

Please note the information and references in this appendix are known to be correct at the time of writing on the 27th March 2020. They will be updated in line with latest government advice.

Contact details

  • Support and Advice Duty: 01392 385276
  • Direct Payments Coordinators :
    • Teignbridge, South Hams and West Devon – Rebecca Kelly – 07989527477
    • Exeter, Exmouth, Woodbury, Lympstone – David Johnson – 07581155037
    • North Devon – Debbie Setherton – 07855827924
    • East and Mid Devon – Clare Key – 07817170491
  • Exeter, East and Mid Devon social work team duty: 01392 386183
  • South Devon social work team duty: 01392 381270
  • North Devon social work team duty: 01271 384180