Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity
The Mental Health Act in 2018/2019 – more needs to be done

The Mental Health Act in 2018/2019 – more needs to be done

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and social care in England, recently published their report on how the Mental Health Act (MHA) is being used. Click here for details

They found that detentions under the MHA continue to rise with 49,998 new detentions recorded for 2018/19.

There are concerns that human rights principles are not consistently being applied to the care and treatment of detained patients and more needs to be done to understand and address issues of inequality, especially for BAME groups. Astonishingly new statistics for detention show that Black or Black British people are still over four times higher than for White British people.

Community Treatment Orders – an order means that a person will have supervised treatment when they leave hospital and requiring them to follow conditions – continue to be significantly higher for Black/Black British people;  53.8 uses per 100,000 population compared to 6.4 uses per 100,000 population for White British people.

There is a lack of availability of beds both in the community and in hospitals. Coroners made the CQC aware of at least seven deaths of people who were assessed as requiring admission, but for whom no mental health bed was available. There is ongoing use of police cells as places of safety due to lack of beds.

There is continued improvement in the number of people being given information about their rights, which was evidenced via patient records:

  • Good evidence of accessible and appropriate info in 91% of all records
  • Initial discussion about rights in 87% of all records
  • Repeated discussions about rights in 80% of all records.

But, there are still many people who don’t understand their legal rights as they’re not having meaningful discussions or being given information in a format they can understand.

94% of the wards visited were locked on the days of the CQC visit, including wards where patients may be admitted on an informal basis. The CQC raised concerns in 7% of visits about whether informal patients were free to leave the ward at will.

They stated that staff may be concerned about how safe it is to allow informal patients to move freely around the hospital grounds or to leave the hospital. As a result, they may be reluctant to fully explain their rights to them or feel like they must take a risk averse approach and use the section 5 holding powers under the MHA to stop the person leaving when they request to do so.

There are ongoing concerns about patients’ involvement in care planning. The CQC recommended that patient involvement was absent or needed to improve in 37% of care plans that they reviewed. 19% of care plans showed insufficient or no evidence that a person’s diverse needs were considered, and 17% showed insufficient or no evidence that the service had considered the minimum restriction on a patient’s liberty. In 11% of care plans there was no evidence of patient involvement at all.

The CQC also highlighted the complexity between the MHA, the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) work. It highlights that it is very difficult for people to be clear on what safeguards and rights they have under each of these frameworks. It also calls for the laws to be updated and provide clear guidance on how they interact.

Clearly there is a huge amount of work to be done and many people with an ASD know only too well what it means when MHA is used infectively and without compassion.

It is hoped that the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act will come into force soon and it seems the Mental Health Admissions (Data) Bill is progressing. That said, parents and adults are encouraged to keep their representatives updated with regards to mental health failures and, of course, successes.

EHRC – the use of restraint in schools

EHRC – the use of restraint in schools

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), an independent body that promotes equality and human rights in Great Britain, have just launched an inquiry into the use of restraint in schools.

Currently the law permits schools to use reasonable force, which includes physical restraint, when it is reasonable to do so:

  • Prevent a pupil committing any offence,
  • Prevent a pupil from causing personal injury to, or damage to the property of, any person (including the pupil himself), or
  • To maintain good order

There is no legal duty on schools to record or report when they restrain pupils. There is also no duty to tell parents or caregivers when their child has been restrained.

This also means there is very limited data on how often restraint is being used in schools and the reasons behind it.

The EHRC’s inquiry will look into whether primary, secondary and special needs schools in England and Wales are collecting information on the use of restraint.

It will also look at how other institutions collect and use data, such as child and adolescent mental health units and young offender institutions, to explore if there is any learning from those approaches which could be applied to schools.

Click here to find details of the inquiry, it is important the EHRC are made aware of how children and young persons with ASD are affected by the current regimen.

Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19)

In accordance with the rights available to the Secretary of State for Education contained in the Coronavirus Act 2020, notices were issued on the 30th April 2020 which “temporarily… give local authorities, health commissioning bodies , education settings and other bodies who contribute to [issuing and maintaining EHCp’s] more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by coronavirus (COVID-19)”.

Full details can be found click here to read

So what are the effects of all of this?

Firstly, the Department of Education are keen to make clear that these are “modifications” which are temporary.

That said, they are significant and include: Changes to Section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014

  • Section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 includes the duty placed on a local authority to secure the special educational provision contained in section F of an EHCp. Now a local authority will have discharged this duty if they have used ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so.
  • Section 42 also places the same duty in relation to health care provision on the responsible commissioning body. Again, this is now subject to the reasonable endeavours test

Reasonable endeavours are not defined and are dependent on local circumstances resulting from the pandemic. The Department of Education gives examples of what alternative arrangements may be reasonable. These include:

  • video class sessions for children to keep in touch with classmates and teaching staff
  • a home learning reading programme, provided by a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) and reviewed weekly
  • weekly phone or video contact from school staff to monitor home learning programmes, to provide feedback, and to make adjustments as necessary
  • specialist SEN Teachers providing advice and support to parents in relation to autism, visual or hearing impairment or literacy programmes
  • a speech and language therapist delivering sessions via video link
  • the parent and child travelling to receive the therapy at suitable premises, where this can be done in ways consistent with guidance on reducing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist video linking to a child’s home and modelling exercises that the parents could do with their child
  • occupational therapists providing webinars for school staff on topics such as sensory strategies or pre-writing skills, or a teletherapy service
  • sending home accessible hard copy therapy programmes with additional phone support for parents and young persons to help them work through them
  • where an EHC plan already includes a personal budget or a direct payment, widening its use to enable the purchase of equipment or other relevant material to support home learning
  • loaning parents school equipment, such as specialist support equipment (seating equipment, IT equipment used at school etc) to be used at home to support learning

To help with this, the Government has announced a package of support to ensure vulnerable and disadvantaged young people across the country receive free laptops. Click here for details

This modification will last 1 month from 1st May 2020, though they could be extended into following months.

Timescales for EHC needs assessments and plans

These changes will last from 1 May to 25 September 2020 (inclusive) but should only be seen as temporary. The Department of Education are keen to stress that they only affect timing.

In summary, the whole of the process of issuing an EHCp should take no more than 20 weeks; this period is made up of a number of stages, including the 6-weeks allocated for a local authority to determine whether they should move on to a EHC needs assessment following an application.

The changes introduced now mean that if it is impractical for the local authority to meet a stage deadline because of a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), then it must conclude the said stage as soon as practicable.

The Department of Education are keen to point out that timescales have not been abandoned.

In addition to the above, The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which also come into force on the 1st May 2020, have also made (temporary) arrangement to The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014.

We will address these in a future post.

Coronavirus and your wellbeing – from Mind, the mental health charity

Coronavirus and your wellbeing – from Mind, the mental health charity

Anna Kennedy Online nominated Calvin Billington Glen as an inspiring singer song writer, a fundraiser for charitable causes and a great supporter of other young people who live with autism. He is a passionate supporter Anna Kennedy Online and has helped to create the charity’s first album ‘Building Bridges’ writing a song to commemorate a friend who sadly passed away. Calvin has organised and performed at events in aid of various charities and is a Young Ambassador for Dorset Mind who specialises in services for young people with mental health issues in the Dorset Area.

In October 2017, Calvin was presented with his Inspire Diana Award at Barclays ,Canary Wharf by Tessy Ojo CEO of The Diana Award. Tessy shared ‘This recognition is vital as it provides further motivation to continue in their quest for change and they are more likely to mobilise their peers, creating a positive ripple effect in communities’ Anna Kennedy OBE shared ‘I am very proud of Calvin and he is a talented , kind and caring young man. A great role model for individuals on the autism spectrum.’ 

Calvin Glen one of our AGT performers is an Ambassador for Dorset Mind we did a joint fundraiser together, there is some great advice from Mind: Click here for details.

SEND Tribunal – Update

SEND Tribunal – Update

Yesterday (19th March 2020) the Chamber President and Deputy Chamber President of HESC sent out the following guidance regarding (amongst other things) regarding the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal:

Decisions about the education of children and young people are vitally important and the Tribunal is making every effort to conclude as many appeals and claims as possible.

The Tribunal are already aware of parents, young people, local authority representatives and witnesses who are self-isolating and social distancing, putting pressure on all services at this unprecedented time.

Following today’s announcement from the Senior President of Tribunals, all hearings in the First-tier Tribunal Special Educational Needs and Disability will move away from face to face hearings and make use of the technology available.

From Monday 23 March 2020, the Tribunal will use technology to enable hearings to proceed for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hearings will be on paper or by telephone and where possible video, where the technology permits. 

The arrangements for your hearing will be confirmed at least 2 days before the date on which your hearing is listed, and it would assist if you could check whether you are able to access telephone and internet services either in your home or locally. 

You will not be required to travel to the hearing venue if you have either telephone or internet video facilities.

If parties do not have a reliable telephone or internet service available in their homes, it may be possible to arrange to use the IT equipment or telephones at your nearest Courts and Tribunals hearing venue.

There is no need to contact the Tribunal to obtain the details as the administrative team are working to issue those details to you in time for your hearing.

Please do not contact the Tribunal helpline because at present, the Tribunal’s own resources are reduced due to self-isolation and social distancing and it is at the point two days before your hearing, if you haven’t received correspondence from the Tribunal that you should contact the office.

Thank you for your patience. If we can be of any further assistance please email the Tribunal at send@justice.gov.uk

In summary, there is a moratorium as far as in person hearing as concerned. Instead from Monday 23rd March 2020 hearings will:

  1. Be on the papers submitted – including written submissions on the evidence
  2. Use technology, specifically telephone or videoconferencing facilities.

Whilst this change may not be universally welcomed, it is understandable as the Tribunal are doing what they reasonably can to ensure that, as far as possible, its work goes on uninterrupted.

 

Equality Act 2010 – Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff

Equality Act 2010 – Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff

Where someone meets the definition of a disabled person in the Equality Act 2010 (the Act) employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of the job which place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

Employers are only required to make adjustments that are reasonable.

Factors such as the cost and practicability of making an adjustment and the resources available to the employer may be relevant in deciding what is reasonable.

Please click here to download

Please note that this is general guidance only and cannot by its nature deal with all circumstances.

It is always best for you to take your own, independent legal advice if you are unsure of your obligations in specific circumstances.

This guidance is aimed at businesses to help them understand what adjustments they are required to make for disabled employees and job applicants. Of course, individual circumstances may vary and employers need to act in accordance with their legal obligations.

Further useful information can be found at the end.

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