Latest news and updates

An introduction to the Chair of Hertfordshire Parent/Carer Involvement

HAND SEND news spoke to Helen Errington, Chair of the Hertfordshire Parent/Carer Involvement (HPCI) forum to find out more about HPCI and what her role entails.

"I keep thinking that I have only recently become Chair but it has already been nine months. My role since starting as Chair has been to look at how the Forum is functioning internally. We have just done a review of HPCI governance and some changes are starting to filter through. We now have two new part time members of staff and in the Autumn will be recruiting for more Directors to join the Board. We will also be trying to find more members for the forum and more Parent Reps.

I joined HPCI as a member many years ago – it made sense to me to be part of the Parent/Carer Forum in the place I have lived for the last 22 years, to find out about what is going on in Hertfordshire in the world of special needs. Parent Carer Forums nationally are recognised in the SEND Code of Conduct and are a group of parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) who work together with Education, Health & Social Care service providers. We work together to make sure that the services they plan and deliver meet the needs of our local children and young people with SEND and their families.

After a while I became a Parent Rep which allowed me to be trained to be able to represent HPCI at meetings and be involved in projects.. I mainly attend Hertfordshire County Council’s Preparing for Adulthood groups but in my role as Chair, I attend a variety of meetings. This can take up to six hours a week depending on the number of meetings that are scheduled. All Parent Reps can take on as much or as little as they can manage depending on their circumstances and I have been able to do more as my children have got older. HPCI is looking to recruit more parents to be trained as representatives, so if anyone wants to join us as a rep then keep a look out on the HPCI website for details. We’d be pleased to meet you.

I joined the HPCI Board of Directors in 2017 – there are currently six Directors including myself. We are all volunteers in the role of Director. (Parent Reps are paid for the time they spend preparing and attending meetings) We meet 6 - 7 times a year to decide the strategy for HPCI and we are also looking to increase the number of Directors on the Board – there will be more information about this and an advert on the HPCI website next month in September. In my role as Chair I also manage the staff of HPCI.

So what do I do in the time left over? I have two sons – one is away at university and the other is about to start a Foundation Degree at Chickenshed Theatre but will live at home and travel in each day. In the past I have been a Housing Officer, a Lecturer, worked at an inner London College, and been an independent supporter for KIDS. Currently I have my own small business specialising in orienteering & teaching navigation & work on expeditions. I work for Chancellor’s School in Brookmans Park, supporting their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme as well as for British Orienteering supporting volunteers to stage an international four day Orienteering festival held over the Easter weekend each year.

My hobbies include orienteering with the family and trying to keep my allotment free from weeds and full of vegetables and fruit! And of course I am a travel and social event worker for my young person with SEND."  Helen and her son Peter pictured above

We aim to bring you features on our partners regularly in HAND SEND news - so keep in touch here!

HAND data base has reopened

The HAND database is now open again.

We’ve made a number of changes to the system, some behind the scenes to improve data quality and to strengthen security and you’ll see new updates include an electronic HAND card to download and the ability to add more than one child to one account. Your email used on the registration is also now your username.

You should now be able to download the HAND card and save it onto your mobile device to have on you whenever you need. We will no longer be issuing physical HAND cards but of course, those who already have one, can continue to use it.

We’ve had a few unexpected issues with this update to the system and we’re aware this has caused problems for some trying to log-in and download their card. We can only apologise for this. We have been working with our IT provider to get these sorted and the issues should now be fixed.

However, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any problems accessing your account by emailing hand@hertfordshire.gov.uk with your HAND ID so we can sort any issues for you as soon as possible. Once again, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.

If you don't yet have a HAND card - find out more about them on the Local Offer here.

In the July issue of HAND SEND News, we asked you what you thought about the online HAND card.

Here are the results of the online poll, where the majority of parents/carers told us they would like to move to an electronic version. Thank you for sharing your views.



Update on mental health support in schools

Many more school children in Hertfordshire and west Essex will be able to get early help with their mental health difficulties, thanks to a national ‘Trailblazer’ programme.

Two new mental health support teams will join those already in place in 32 schools and colleges in St Albans and East Hertfordshire, following another successful bid for national funding.

One of the new teams will cover special schools across Hertfordshire and west Essex, hosted by the PALMS service at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust and the other, hosted by the mental health charity Mind, will cover schools in Harlow.

Staff for the new teams will be recruited from September and will work in schools and colleges to:

  • support children and young people who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues
  • help the senior mental health lead in each school or college to develop the support that they offer to the whole school community
  • give timely advice to school and college staff, liaising with external specialist services to help children and young people to get the right support and stay in education

Read more about this on the NHS website here

Half of all lifetime cases of mental health disorders begin by the age of 14 and one in eight children experience a mental health problem. That’s why getting early help from someone who can identify children’s mental health issues and put in place the right support is vitally important. This is an important part of our plans to deliver a healthier future for our children and young people.”
Dr Geraldine O’Sullivan, Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) Clinical Lead for Mental Health

Applying for a Blue Badge with a non-visible (hidden) condition

New criteria for blue badge applications is coming on 30th August 2019.

As we reported last month, you can now apply for a Blue Badge if you suffer with a severe non-visible condition such as autism or mental health, for example, you might get a badge if you severely struggle to get from your vehicle to your destination.

Applicants would also need to either:

  • be a constant risk to themselves or other people in traffic or car parks.
  • severely struggle to plan or follow a journey
  • find it difficult or impossible to control their actions and lack awareness of the impact they could have on others
  • regularly have intense and overwhelming responses to situations causing temporary loss of behavioural control
  • frequently become extremely anxious or fearful of public/open spaces

Having a certain condition doesn’t automatically entitle someone to a blue badge though.

A bit of detail about automatic entitlement…

People are automatically entitled to a badge if they scored 10 points on the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) criteria: “cannot undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant”. This is under the “planning and following a journey” part of the PIP mobility assessment.

People aren't automatically entitled if they get PIP but didn't score 10 points on these criteria, or if they get other benefits like Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance. They can still apply though. .

To find out what you will need when you apply or to apply (from 30th August 2019) visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/bluebadge

You can find more disability information on our Money Advice factsheets

Hungry Little Minds campaign

Hungry Little Minds is a new Department for Education campaign that encourages parents and carers to adopt positive activities and behaviours to boost children’s communication, language and literacy development.

The three-year campaign, which launched with social media and online adverts in July, aims to help parents understand what a massive impact they have on their child’s learning.

Reading, playing and chatting with your child are simple things you can do to help them develop, even when they are too young to say much back.

(See also My Baby's Brain)

The Hungry Little Minds campaign provides lots of simple tips and activities that you can slot into your routine and that children love such as:

  • Kids will make a game out of almost anything. When you play with them you can see their imaginations light up. Whether it’s I spy while on the bus, peek-a-boo at bath-time or even a game of teddy bears’ picnic at tea-time.
  • Kids love to talk about all sorts of things. It all goes in, even when they’re too young to say much back. So just go with what they are interested in.
  • Kids love it when you read with them. It all goes in. Every single word. From a book, a magazine, even a shopping list.

You can also search for activities in your area using a new postcode finder service online.


A new children's minister

Kemi Badenoch has been announced as children's minister, succeeding Nadim Zahawi in the Department for Education post responsible for children's social care.

You can read more about the new minister here

Things to do in Hertfordshire

Find things to do in Hertfordshire at the click of a button

things to do imageWe are making it easier and quicker for you to find Things to Do in your area.

In this and future issues, you will no longer see leaflets and adverts in the newsletter. You simply need to click on this link "Things to do" to find our data base of SEND events and activities listed in the Local Offer website.

Simply put in the postcode of the area you are interested in and all current events and activities will be displayed.

We hope you find this new function in your HAND SEND newsletter quick and easy to use to find a lot more events happening near you.

Please remember, you can enter in your own details of events by filling in the online form in the 'Things to do' section here'  or you can email details of the event to us at localoffer@Hertfordshire.gov.uk

Siblings First

Did you know - Families in Focus offer free places in fun and games activities for brothers, sisters of children with additional needs.

Siblings can join in with therapeutic play, fun and games with discussions, sharing and expressing feelings, understanding more about your brother or sister and why they do what they do. Find new ways of coping with difficult things and meeting other children who live in family similar to yours. 

Parents/carers must be in attendance, and arrange alternative care and accommodation for the child with SEND.

Being held in Watford, from November, you can find out more by looking at our events on the Local Offer, emailing  Francine@familiesinfocus.co.uk or calling 07867510027.

Parent Network Support

Families in focus CIC logoIf you're looking for support and information about caring for a child or young person with additional needs, the Parent Network can help.

Maria & Hayley are all parents and trained Families in Focus CIC facilitators who arerunning FREE Parent Network support & information drop in sessions in Harpenden.  The Lottery funded Parent Network support & information groups also run in Hemel Hempstead (x2 groups) Watford, Stevenage, Hatfield, Harpenden & Biggleswade.

The network is for parents/adoptive parents and grandparents caring for children and young people with either a diagnosis or awaiting diagnosis of Special Education Needs

Here's a snap shot of some of the upcoming events -

September 5th  - Understanding our sensory world through the eyes of the child with guests Lesley and Francine

October 3rd - YC Herts Parents guide to body changes during puberty & hygiene & young people with SEND

November 7th - Relationship tips & parenting a child with SEND

Find out more here on the Local Offer or visit email info@familiesinfocus.co.uk

Workshops 'Just for Dads'

DSPL 9 is providing 2 hour workshops 'Just for Dads' who care for children with special needs and/or disabilities, living in the Watford, Bushey, Radlett and three rivers areas.

Dads, grandads, male adoptive, foster carers can get together with others caring for children/young people with Autism, ADHD, special education needs etc and share experiences, knowledge and information.

The following workshops are available:

30th September: Emotional journey & and effects on relationships when parenting children with SEND

11th November: Managing your stress

20th January: Parents guide to body changes & hygiene for young people with SEND

9th March: Using empathic communication to build emotional regulation

The workshops are held at Otley Family Centre in Watford from 7pm to 9pm.

Read more here

Saracens mixed ability rugby

mixed ability rugbyIts not too late to register to play mixed ability rugby with Saracens Rugby Club at the Hertford Rugby Club.

The group run by the Hertfordshire branch of the National Autism Society started on 24 July but is ongoing and new players always welcome.

Register online here or email Charlie.white@saracens.net

Bridge that gap with Study Plus

Study PlusStudy Plus is a FREE course aimed at young people aged 16 – 19 (20 - 24 with an EHCP) who are not in education, training or employment or who may have found formalised education settings a challenge in the past.

Study Plus offers smaller classes and a specialised approach for those learners who need additional support to achieve their goals. 

Study Plus offers: 

  • Functional Skills: English and maths (Entry Level 3 – Level 2)
  • Gateway Award in Employability Skills (Level 1)
  • First Aid (Level 3)
  • Life Skills
  • Information, Advice and Guidance
  • Pathway Planning
  • Work Experience (if the young person is work-ready)

 Our NEW programmes will be running at: 

The United Reform Church in Cuttys Lane, Stevenage.

Monday – Wednesday from 9.30am- 3.45pm

Starting on 16th September and continuing throughout the academic year.

 For more information please contact:  Louise Crawford on 01438 845821 or emails louise.crawford@hertfordshire.gov.uk / hafls.BST@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Support and Advice

Exam results are out - what to do next?

Worried about A level or GCSE results coming up?

Remember that YC Hertfordshire has Access Points around the county that will be open on results days to give careers advice and guidance – visit the YC Hertfordshire website here to find out more. YC Hertfordshire PAs might also be in attendance at your school.

Making decisions about what steps to take beyond school can be daunting. Many young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) want to go to college. To help the decision-making progress we've created a guide for parents and carers, and for young people - Learning Pathways.

The guide sets out the learning pathways that the four Further Education colleges in Hertfordshire offer. For most students Post-16 learning is for two years but could be extended to three. Progress is reviewed annually and next steps, are jointly discussed and agreed between the college, the young person and their parents or carers.

Many of the pathways are designed for individuals whose needs might be best addressed by accessing discrete, specialised SEND programmes. Alternatively, for some young people who meet the necessary requirements, the way forward might be to access a mainstream vocational programme that's combined with a package of additional learning support. Both options are offered by the colleges and explored in the guide. 

The guide provides a starting point for discussion between parents, carers and young people and aims to highlight options that you may want to pursue further. Attending college open days will help but in addition each learning pathway contains key college contacts who will answer any queries you may have.

Finding employment - free online help

The National Autism Society (NAS) offers a new online employment module designed to support autistic adults and young people into employment.

As part of their Autism Employment Gap campaign, NAS found that 77% of autistic people want to be in work, but fewer than one in five has a full-time job. Employment may not be right for all autistic people, but being in meaningful work can provide a real sense of self-worth, engagement and purpose and there is an undiscovered workforce of motivated, talented autistic people who are having serious difficulty finding work.

The course looks at the steps involved in applying for work, interviewing tips and starting work. The application also allows users to create a personalised profile, which they can then use when attending interviews or starting work.

The online employment resource will help young people to:

  • identify their personal skill set and positive attributes
  • support understanding of autism, including positive disclosure
  • develop CV writing and job application skills
  • develop interview techniques and strategies
  • develop skills to prepare for the workplace.

Find the course on the NAS website by following this link http://bit.ly/2ZC2qIP

Top tips for understanding a person with autism

The Hertfordshire All Age Autism Partnership Board has put together some 'Top Tips' to share with practice staff for understanding and helping a person who has autism.

If you have a child or young person with autism, you may like to download the list to share with your GP, teacher or others who come into contact with your child. Click on the fact sheet image to download.

Remember to confirm your 30 hours free childcare

30 hours free childcare reconfirmation deadline is 31 August 2019

Families only have until 31 August 2019 to reconfirm their eligibility with HMRC to ensure they are still eligible for autumn 2019. There are many families who still need to reconfirm; they can do this by logging in to their childcare service account. 

New parents who may be eligible for 30 hours free childcare from September 2019 also have a deadline of 31 August 2019 to apply for an eligibility code on the childcare choices website.  

If a parent was issued a code over the telephone, the parent will need to reapply online when the time comes to reconfirm their eligibility.

If a parent has difficulties with reconfirmation, they should insist that an incident referral is raised with HMRC via their helpline; HMRC can be contacted on 0300 123 4097.

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