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Disabled Children’s Service

Last Updated 11:29am, 9 June 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.

We are completing risk assessments for all those children and young people who are open to our Advice and Support Service and each family will receive a phone call from us in the coming weeks. However, this could be from a Community Care Worker or from a Rehabilitation of Visually Impaired Children (ROVIC) who are supporting us in this task.

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.

School’s are open for vulnerable children, does this include my child?
The government has said that if your child has a social worker and a child protection plan, is a child in need or a child in care, they are expected to be in school, so long as they do not have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19).There is more information about this on our schools and education webpage.

If your child attends a special school, you will need to liaise directly with the school first to ensure that the necessary arrangements can be put in place to safely support your child, before sending them in. Outreach work is being offered by special schools in various forms, and schools want to work with you directly to decide how best to safely support your child at this time.

The government guidance is also clear that, although some children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) have a social worker, many of them can remain safely at home. Please speak to your social worker if you are concerned.

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.

  • Support and advice duty: 01392 385276
  • 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

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.

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 (April 2020)

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.

Existing policy changes

We have made the following universal changes to our existing direct payments policy;

  1. There will be a suspension in the retrieval of excess funds during the time for which this policy is in place.
  2. 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.

Use of direct payments

The availability of enablers and services is frequently changing, so the use of direct payments will be as flexible as possible to support families, within legal limits.

This amended policy is in place to promote flexibility and creativity when it comes to supporting your child and family. The information on this page will give you an idea of some other potential uses of your direct payments and advises what changes are and 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.

Please note the information and references on this page are known to be correct at the time of writing (27.3.2020). They will be reviewed and updated in line with latest government advice.

If your child has an education, health and care plan they could be eligible for a place at school if they cannot be safely cared for at home. Please discuss this with your child’s education provider.

Can I have an increase in my direct payments because of the school closures?
We recognise that school closures are putting increased pressure on families and we want to work with you to try and determine the best use of your personal budget. If you feel you need an increase in support, please get in touch with your child’s allocated worker or direct payments coordinator to request this. They will then be able to complete a short breaks plan review with you.

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 or household appliances. This includes take away meals and petrol (unless agreed in your child’s short breaks plan). If you are having difficulty with providing food, basic items or household appliances you should first ascertain that you are receiving all of the benefits to which you are entitled. Quids for Kids offer support in doing this. There are also food banks throughout Devon who may be able to help. If you are still struggling to access these items, please contact your allocated worker or relevant team’s duty number.

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?
We recognise that school closures and disruption to short break services are going to have a significant impact upon children, parent carers and families. Therefore, we have agreed that direct payments can be used to buy equipment or technology to support a child’s education, entertainment and wellbeing. This would be in place of the agreed short breaks plan and would not routinely attract additional funding.

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.

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) outbreak.

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 or your employment insurance provider.

Retaining employees

The government has recently published updated guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for those who receive direct payments.

This guidance provides clarity on the situations in which it may be appropriate for employees to be retained using the job retention scheme. The situations in which this applies is when either the employee is shielding or has caring responsibilities which are preventing them from working, or the employer or someone in their household is shielding. The guidance is clear that individuals receiving direct payments for employing personal assistants (PAs) should continue current arrangements in line with precautionary measures (PPE etc) wherever possible.

If you do not wish for your employee to deliver the same support they usually do for your child, please consider whether there may be other tasks they could do for you to support your family during this time, for example, collecting prescriptions or shopping.

If your employee is fit and well but you decide you would rather not have them working for you during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, you would still have to pay them if they are on contracted hours.

Here are some links to lots of useful information and advice for people who employ carers:

If you have further questions or queries which you feel this policy does not answer, please contact your child’s allocated worker, relevant team’s duty number or our direct payment coordinators.

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