Pandemic / home education

As an education lawyer, my position prior to COVID starting would nearly always have been that it’s better for a child to be within the ‘education system’ rather than electively home educated. This is because there’s no way to force an LA to help you with elective home education, so you cannot expect to mix and match LA funded provision with your own. [This is the case notwithstanding that there are times when LAs can be forced to fund education otherwise than at a school]. Generally, LAs should be held to the statutory duty to make suitable educational provision for children with SEN. Opting for elective home education lets the LA get away with doing nothing.

Secondly, for most children with EHCPs, there is a need for specific expert input into their education – they need a SALT, an OT, a Teacher of the Deaf, a QTVI and so on. Elective home education is likely to reduce a household’s income considerably to accommodate an adult being available to supervise / teach the child meaning there will be less money around to buy in these services privately. Obviously NHS based services will be available, whether a child is electively home educated or not, but may be very patchy and with very long waiting lists.

Thirdly, for quite a lot of children with EHCPs, learning how to interact with and communicate with other children is part of the special educational provision they require. In specialist schools this is facilitated by teaching staff working under the guidance of SALTs and there are opportunities integrated into the day for the children to be taught and to practice these skills. With elective home education, there are often family run groups covering particular activities that are hard to do at home that happen at set intervals, which allows some opportunities for social interaction. These are unlikely to happen each day of the week. It is also possible for home educated children to join out of school sports clubs and other organisations like Scouting and Girlguiding. For some children, it may be better for them to work on interaction with other children more slowly and in the ways possible for electively home educated children, but it is something to be considered carefully.

Where elective home education becomes an option that should be seriously considered on at least a temporary basis is when there is a public health situation that is not being properly managed. We are overdue an influenza pandemic, on the basis of the historical timing of recent ones. That doesn’t change just because we’re in a COVID pandemic. At this point, in May 2024, there are concerning reports of avian flu H5N1 being found in the udders of American cows with at least one farmworker infected with it. There are also reports of H5N1 being found in American wastewater. H5N1 has been jumping around between birds and some other mammals (cats, mink) for maybe just over a year. The more it jumps around between birds, mammals and back to birds and so on, the greater the potential it will make the jump to being easily transmissible between people. [At the moment, as far as I can tell, you are at little risk of catching H5N1 unless you are handling dead birds or are around infected herds of dairy cows and exposed to aersolised milk during the milking process].

If H5N1 makes the jump to people, it won’t be immediately obvious because it takes time for people to become ill and more time for them to become ill enough to seek medical care and further time again for those who are going to be seriously affected by it to be hospitalised and for some of them to die. It will take time to work out that H5N1 is what people have (rather than COVID/MERS/some other condition). It is likely that H5N1 will have a substantially higher case fatality rate than COVID – I see estimates of up to about 30%.

Schools will close if there’s an H5N1 pandemic. There won’t be enough well staff to keep them open safely, even if there is political desire to avoid closures. This is a time when you want to be ahead of the curve, to keep your whole household at home as much as possible.

If things proceed as COVID did, it is likely to be safe enough to keep your child at home on the basis of the virus and allow the school to record it as ‘unauthorised absence’, with your child remaining on the school roll for so long as there is no pressure on them to return to school whilst there’s a lot of virus about. If the Government is very slow to respond, you may find yourself with a school trying to manage your child’s absence as if it’s truancy. At which point removing them from the school roll may be the best course of action, unless they have an EHCP (you wouldn’t want to have to fight to ‘recreate’ your EHCP the otherside of the worst bit of pandemic, after you’ve already gone to all the effort of getting it right)

If you have a child with an EHCP attending a special school, removing them from the roll is not as simple as it is for all other children, but you are unlikely to experience much opposition, in these circumstances, to keeping your child at home without removing them from the roll, as many of the children attending special schools will be particularly vulnerable to flu viruses and the school will be tactitly content to have fewer children around to reduce the numbers of people who can pass germs around.

If you already have social services involvement, it will be best to try to get some advice before removing children from a school roll, as unfortunately removing children from school rolls and moving house is a known tactic of abusive parents, because it ‘hides’ children from appropriate interaction with public services. You will want to be clear why it’s unsafe for them to be at school, to indicate whether you are planning to move house (and at this point you might be, if your ‘lockdown’ plan is to join relatives in a big house more rurally etc) and probably to invite the social worker to come and meet you and the children outdoors.

Mainstream / less usual decisions

This writing is prompted in part by an argument I had with someone on Facebook – who knew it was useful for something.

When you are operating in a Court/Tribunal context, your decision making (including your evidence gathering) needs to reflect what the Tribunal is likely to find persuasive. You want, so far as you can, to answer the questions they are likely to have before they’ve asked them. This means a number of things.

  1. Tribunals are not usually sympathetic to arguments for provision that lacks an evidence base, is very new or is otherwise controversial. Think very carefully before including requests for things that might be thought of as “weird and wacky” in an EHCP, because you do run the risk of making yourself look less rational and everything you say being subjected to a higher level of scrutiny. This isn’t ‘fair’ – especially when you are an expert in the topic and you are expecting mainstream science / education professionals to catch up with it in a couple of years time. Some of the time it can be easy to leave things like this out because they aren’t really educational (even using the very wide defintion of special educational provision that the Children and Families Act uses) – hyperbaric oxygen / raw food diets etc can be kept as something you do independently and left out of the EHCP. If you really do need to include something a bit “out of the ordinary”, ask your own independent experts to comment on it and why it works / is likely to work for your child, when more mainstream options are unlikely to work. Note, that you’re always asking independent experts for their professional views – they may disagree with you. In Tribunal cases you generally have a choice about whether or not to serve an expert’s report [this isn’t the case in other jurisdictions] and you will need to consider carefully whether your child is better served by you compromising on the unusual thing or by not using the expert’s evidence. Pick your experts carefully and listen to their advice.
  2. Children are people separate from their parents. In the context of Tribunals making decisions about children with special educational needs, Tribunals make decisions based on the evidence available to them about what is right for the child. Arguments along the lines of “this is my child, we’re doing x because I say so” aren’t going to be helpful to you in arguing about educational provision with a Tribunal, especially when you’re advocating for something that looks unusual. It isn’t like making decisions for yourself, where you have considerable scope for doing what suits you because you consider it’s best for you regardless of what anyone else says.
  3. Applied Behavioural Analysis is in a special category. [It’s a specific type of intense, structured input, usually for very young autistic children] It’s always been somewhat controversial, though it’s been possible to get Tribunals to order it on the basis of evidence that it’s working for a specific child and there’s a plan for it to come to an end in due course with the child integrated into a school. What’s relatively new is that there are now autistic adults online explaining that the practice is abusive and they have suffered from it. Tribunal panels can read the internet as well as the rest of us: they will be aware of this additional bit of controversy. If you have evidence ABA is right for your child, in your specific circumstances and that there isn’t any other suitable provision, you would be well advised to have your independent Educational Psychologist comment on your child’s level of distress when seen working with one of their ABA tutors as well as to have your Consultant/Case Manager comment on how ABA in 2023 differs from that around in 2000, how they support distressed children and enable children to express their feelings.

Tribunal Judges

There’s new guidance about how to address judges in some Courts and Tribunals, that applies to SEN Tribunals, which are part of the “First-tier Tribunal”.

We now all have to get used to calling judges “Judge” rather than “Sir” or “Madam”, whilst specialist members (“wing” members or ‘non-legal members of Tribunals’) continue to be addressed as “Sir” or “Madam”.

“Judge” has been a term used to verbally address English judges by people (mostly barristers) who encounter them outside of Court rooms, for a long time. Inherent in its usage is that the person being addressed is another lawyer, which will be why it’s not being used for specialist members.

A potentially useful phrase is “Judge, I wonder if it would assist you and your colleague(s), if I….”. The important bit is “you and your colleague(s)” as it gives you a less clunky/clumsy way of addressing your whole Tribunal panel at once than any of the alternatives.

Preparation – COVID

When looking at most special educational needs questions, GPs aren’t able to be terribly helpful, because the issues that arise are around the impact on education rather than on the correct medication to trial or similar. [This is a bit of an oversimplification, as there are areas where a GP would be able to advise eg. that a child, due to their medical conditions is likely to tire quickly and need an afternoon nap or rest period before more lessons, but it generally holds true]

Where GPs can help is with related issues:

  1. If you are caring for a disabled relative, it’s worth asking your GP to note that you are doing that. This applies whether you’re caring for a child or an adult (or as some people do, both ie. their child and an elderly parent) They are meant to offer eg. more flexible appointment arrangements to carers as well as annual influenza vaccinations. At the moment, unpaid carers are included as part of JCVI’s priority group 6 for COVID vaccinations, so there is some advantage to you in your GP being aware of your circumstances.
  2. It’s important your GP knows your occupation, as some conditions have occupational risk factors meaning priority for vaccinations. In respect of COVID, if you are employed by a disabled person as their PA, (whether independently, via a personal budget or direct payment) you fall within JCVI’s priority group 2 for COVID vaccinations, along with all other health and social care staff. [Yes, there’s an argument to be had about the ethics of prioritising paid care staff over unpaid carers, but for now this differential treatment is where we are]
  3. There’s certainly talk at the moment of prioritising adults who are key workers for COVID vaccinations at a later stage in the process, so if you are a critical worker it’s worth writing to your GP to make sure they have your occupation recorded correctly and to give them some understanding of how much in person contact you have with people as part of your work.
  4. Children aged 16 or 17 and adults who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable fall within priority group 4. Children aged 16 or 17 and adults who are Clinically Vulnerable (scroll down to “moderate risk”) fall within priority group 6. It’s arguably worthwhile attempting to arrange any overdue chronic disease appointments to make sure you/your child is definitely on your practice’s radar as falling within priority group 6. Priority group 6 also includes residents in residential care settings, which would include specialist schools as well as care homes, even where residents don’t have conditions that would put them in priority group 6 individually. Usually where people are living in a residential care setting they are registered with a local GP, but sometimes it’s easier for them to be registered with a GP near their usual family home. So if you have a child in such a setting, it’s worth making sure their GP knows this.
  5. At the moment, there’s very limited recommendations for vaccinating children under 16 – see pages 13-14 of Chapter 14a of the Green Book which limits the recommendation to children with severe neurological disease, who frequently get respiratory infections and who spend time in specialist residential settings for children with complex needs. If you have a child who falls within this category, it’d be worth telling their GP that you want them to have the vaccine as soon as it’s available.
  6. GPs are meant to co-ordinate provision and have complete sets of our medical records. When you have obtained independent reports for your child around an aspect of their SEN, it is usually worthwhile sharing these with your child’s GP, even if they won’t affect any medical management immediately. They may be relevant to your child in later life.

Specialisation / knowledge base

I’ve recently had a couple of enquiries from people looking for help with residential conveyancing and will writing. Although conveyancing is part of the Legal Practice Course and will writing/probate is something I did a little of as a Trainee, I have very limited knowledge of either area.

Lawyers specialise early (arguably a bit too early in a way that means a lot of us miss out on seeing some of the connections between fields). But the end result is I know as much about conveyancing as most of the people reading this. I know a little more about will writing because it’s an area of law where there was a capacity test that pre-dates the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It’s also an important area to consider for parents with offspring who lack capacity to manage their own finances as part of long term planning. But I’m not somebody who drafts wills.

If you’re looking for someone to help you with conveyancing, I suggest:

  • get a personal recommendation from people who’ve moved house recently.
  • consider the location of the solicitor’s office and proximity to your [current] home / work locations. [this may be less important during COVID-19, where so much is being done remotely].
  • use the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor search function.

In relation to will writing, I suggest:

  • look for personal recommendations, but be prepared to discard them if the person doesn’t have the right expertise.
  • stick to Solicitors for this, don’t go for non-regulated will writing services.
  • use the Law Society’s Find a solicitor search function – look for firms with expertise in both “private client” work and Court of Protection work if you’re trying to leave money to a disabled relative who lacks capacity to manage their own finances.
  • if your situation is really complex, bear in mind you may need advice from Counsel on some aspect of it.

COIVD-19 – Face Coverings

There are exemptions from the law on wearing a face covering on public transport in England for some disabled people (and other exemptions that might also apply).

In general, my advice on this one is:

  • learn the exemptions in case you need to use them to deal with an overly officious person
  • wear a face covering anyway
  • if you can’t wear a face covering, don’t go to places where you’ll end up being physically close to people you don’t live with.

I’d treat face coverings like medical equipment that kids get to play with to see how it works before it’s used on them. Have them around, wear them at home, experiment with the different things available to find the most comfortable to wear. [The last time I checked things like plastic face shields counted as a face covering and might be better for some people than material over their mouths and noses]

Communication support – disability specific cards and other identifying items

This is as complete a list as I can currently compile (there are some places that have removed details of everything they sell from their websites whilst they’re closed for COVID-19 reasons). Expect this list to expand in due course and for the post to be edited. Please do draw any broken links to my attention.

Although I’d been aware of a number of these before drafting this post, the act of drafting leads me to conclude that disability or illness specific alerting cards or items are generally made for disabilities / illnesses / conditions

  • that can affect how people behave in public
  • that can cause loss of consciousness
  • that can affect how people communicate
  • that affect how people should be cared for by medics in emergency situations
  • that are really rare, so a prompt is needed for unfamiliar medics.

Deliberately omitted from this post, which is already quite long are alerting cards / other documents for particular medications or that operate in particular areas of the country – this is a condition specific list.

Headway provide a card for people with Acquired Brain Injury

Alzheimers/ dementia

A charity is working on ID cards for ataxia

Auditory Processing Disorder (at the end of the document)

There are lots of Autism Alert Cards:

The National Autistic Society’s downloadable one

ARGH card designed by autistic people for autistic people

Autism Anglia (covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk)

Autism Berkshire (covers Bracknell, Reading, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Slough, West Berkshire, Wokingham)

Autism Wessex (covers Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole)

Autism West Midlands (covers the British Transport Police nationally as well as Staffordshire, Warwickshire, the West Midlands (eg. Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton), the West Mercia Constabulary (think Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin)

Cheshire Autism


Devon and Cornwall

East Sussex


Howgate shopping centre, Falkirk, Scotland


Leeds City

London (also used by the British Transport Police)

The Marlands shopping centre, Southampton


Pentagon shopping centre, Chatham, Kent


South Yorkshire



Behcet’s disease

Mobility canes for blind people – they also sell red and white canes for deafblind people. (there’s a relatively straight forward process for blind people to register their sight loss in the LA registers, which perhaps diminishes their need for any separate card or other small identifying object).

Cancer on board badges

Deafblind cards

Deaf children / Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association – for BSL users / Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association – for non-BSL users / Hearing Aid battery books / badges for deaf people and wristbands and related items for deaf people

Developmental Language Disorder

Diabetes Wristbands / Diabetes ID cards for insulin users only / Diabetes necklaces / more diabetes wristbands and other ID / Insulin passports

Given how hard it is to find any dyslexia specific alert cards, I suspect they aren’t considered to be useful by many dyslexics. There was, some ten years ago, a Bromley specific scheme providing a card called Helping Everyone with Literacy Problems to help people ask non-verbally for help with reading and completing forms. It is unclear to me why this scheme no longer exists; public spending cuts or it being a non-disabled person’s solution to something that wasn’t needed.

Epilepsy Action / Epilepsy Society

Heart Conditions/ Heart Failure / Cardiomyopathy

Huntingdon’s disease

Fistula wristbands/ Emergency treatment keyrings for people with fistulas for dialysis/ more emergency keyrings

Advanced liver disease / hepatic encephalopathy passport

Primary sclerosing cholangitis

Mental Health – key ring based set of cards for anxiety

Crisis cards: a generic crisis card. Central and North West London, an easy read version by Central and North West London, Dudley and Walsall, NHS Fife, Wales

Motor Neurone Disease

Multiple Sclerosis

Muscular Dystrophies

Myotonic Dystrophy


Phaeochromocytoma / Paraganglioma

Prospopagnosia (face blindness)

Stroke cards/ “communication licences” for people who’ve had strokes


Other communication support tools

There are many different documents and other items eg. cards / badges / wrist bands available to help people communicate non-verbally. I’ve covered those specifically intended for use when using public transport in another blog post as there are rather a lot of them. It’s quite difficult to create an overarching structure to describe what’s broadly available, as what exists comes from different sources made for different and often overlapping purposes. To keep this post to a manageable length, I haven’t covered Apple or Android Applications that do the same or a similar job to these physical objects. At an overarching level there seem to be:

  • Items which prove something about the individual to someone else
  • Items which assert an entitlement to a discount / concession
  • Items that assist communication specifically with public services or other officialdom
  • Items that generally assist communication – whether because someone cannot (always) use spoken English, the information is too lengthy/detailed to be spoken and needs to be put in writing, the information is important and has to be communicated repeatedly or because it’s designed for an emergency situation where someone who would otherwise speak is prevented from doing so.

In more detail there are:

  • Typical symbols of disability that are reasonably well known: Blue badges, Disabled Persons Railcard, Bus Pass under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (includes Freedom Passes for London), Disabled Coachcard
  • Correspondence from the DWP eg. award letters for DLA/PIP/AA and in some circumstances ESA or about the limited capable for work (and work related activity) elements of Universal Credit. This is a prerequisite to obtaining some of the other items listed here. A4 letters are much less convenient for carrying in a purse or wallet than something credit card sized. They also contain a lot of personal information that is often irrelevant.
  • Correspondence from Children’s Services or Adult Social Care eg. an assessment of your needs, details of the services they’re providing.
  • Correspondence in respect of NHS Continuing Care.
  • EHCPs and Annual Review documentation.
  • very occasionally, documents providing written proof of registration with a Local Authority as disabled, eg. Hampshire’s yellow card
  • also occasionally, letters from a doctor, usually on an NHS letterhead, confirming something about you – that you can’t stand, queue, need a telephone, need a carer (or more than one), need someone to travel with you to hospital appointments, can’t use a telephone directory etc and things like Certificates of Visual Impairment.
  • Medical Exemption Certificates for presciptions
  • cards and other identifying items to help you show you entitlement to a discount or other concession eg. Nimbus Access Card, CEA Card, DID card – usually for these sorts of cards, to obtain the card you need to show the issuing organisation some evidence of your need for it.
  • organisation specific cards showing an entitlement / concession eg. the National Trust’s Essential Companion card, Ride Access Passes / Carer Passes for Merlin theme parks.
  • cards intended to help people deal with the police and other authority figures – some Autism Alert Cards are like this. As these sorts of cards are often created together with police forces, they are usually only issued on receipt of proof of a particular disability or condition. There are other initiatives aimed at helping people with communication problems interact with the police eg. some areas’ implementations of the Safe Places Scheme (but not all of them), Pegasus Card Scheme
  • Specifics to do with toileting – RADAR keys to open accessible toilets that are kept locked using a standard key format. Can’t Wait cards which seem to sit in an odd place – they are intended for use by people who are usually verbal to reinforce or replace a verbal request to use a toilet – with part of the theatre of the request coming from the card appearing to be official (though they’re not).
  • cards and other items to explain in simple terms that you have a particular disability or illness eg. Autism Alert cards, that are often created by the well known charities and are reasonably easy to obtain on request. Here’s another by the Bladder and Bowel Foundation
  • tools that originate from disabled adults making the things that work for them see eg. Stickman Communications, the Curly Hair Project, Codeword Pineapple, Cancer on Board badges, Doodlepeople, Sootmegs
  • tools that originate from work developed by Speech and Language Therapists, see eg. products produced by the Play Doctors, like communication fans, communication passports
  • medical alert bracelets, necklaces and other items intended for emergency communication eg. Medic Alert, ICE Communication Cards, some carers emergency card schemes, message in a bottle schemes
  • situation specific tools eg. hospital passports, Disability/About Me Passport for assisting in person communication with Job Centre Plus staff, Reasonable Adjustment Passports and Wellness Action Plans for use in the workplace – many of these tools are designed for communicating information that has to be communicated repeatedly in an efficient way.

Communication support for travelling – trains

This is deliberately timed non-COVID-19 content; sometimes it’s useful to think about other things for a while. Though COVID-19 wise, it is worth considering what is written here in preparation for non-confident public transport users starting to use it again, when it becomes available for more general use. Some people may be sufficiently out of practice that they’ll need a bit of help regaining their previous level of confidence.

This isn’t a post about English National Concessionary Passes (for free bus travel) or Disabled Persons Railcards or the equivalent ones for the National Express. I’ll write about them some other time, but they are reasonably well known.

What’s less easy to find and thus is something I want to write about is the plethora of different documents / cards / badges made as communication support aids by the various different companies that run transport services and by some Local Authorities.

This post contains a lot of links; if you notice any that become broken over time I would like to know about it. It is also a post I am likely to update and edit over time anyway as what’s available changes.

Starting with the Local Authorities; some English LAs (but by no means all) have created travel wallets in bright colours that can be used by people to indicate to the driver (or guard) on local public transport that they might need additional help or time. Some of the time they’re particularly advertised to learning disabled people or to people with ASD. Sometimes they’re restricted to adults (rather than including older children who are learning how to travel independently) At the time I’m writing, I’m aware of:

Northern Ireland, where there is a yellow access travel wallet

Scotland, where they have the Thistle Card

Wales, where there is an orange wallet scheme that runs throughout the country.

Devon, where there are orange access wallets

Durham, where they operate the Bridge Card Scheme (which also operates in Tyne and Wear and Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees

Hertfordshire, where there are orange travel wallets

Worcestershire, where there are pink travel wallets

These are useful so far as they go, so if you live in one of the relevant areas, it’s worth considering asking for one. It is a shame, that there is no consistency in colour for these wallets – which will make them less useful for people who travel longer distances by public transport, as they may not be recognised further away from home.

These travel wallets are usually supplied together with journey assistance cards (discussed towards the end of this page) to enable you to signal your need for assistance to bus drivers and staff on trains.

Travel support cards

Now for the travel support cards offered by some of the train operators. These look to me like they are of relatively limited use for most people, as the emphasis is on recording a name and telephone number of a friend/relative/carer/PA who can be contacted for you if you get into difficulties. Some have space to record how you would like staff to help you if you are in difficulties. This makes them potentially useful, to my mind for,

  • people who lose the ability to speak when in difficulties (whether by reason of a panic attack, high anxiety, seizures)
  • people who aren’t very good at using spoken English generally (eg. some primary BSL users, people with poorly comprehensible speech, people at early stages of learning English)
  • those learning how to travel independently who want a note of what they might ask staff if they experience difficulties.
  • some learning disabled people

In nearly all of these cases, the individual’s difficulty with communicating is unlikely to be restricted to just difficulties communicating about transport, so a separate card to show to a train guard / bus driver may not be as of as much use as a more comprehensive solution Medic Alert bracelet or necklace or a communication book or an Apple/Andoid App to support communication.

Transport operators offering such cards at the time of writing, include:

Gatwich Express/ Great Northern / Southern /Thameslink (these operators have a common card)

London Northwestern Railway

Scotrail offer both badges and a communication aid card

South Eastern Railway

South Western Railway

Transport for London

West Midlands Railway

Some other national schemes that are potentially useful communication aids when travelling.

Blue Assist Cards – allow you to create a text message on paper/mobile phone that could be shown to someone to ask for help.

Helping Hand Cards these are associated with Brighton & Hove, but aren’t restricted to that area – credit card sized cards are produced to order, to the user’s requirements.

JAM Card– intended to communicate “Just A Minute” for people who need to take a bit longer when communicating or completing tasks.

Sunflower lanyards and other items – used to indicate any sort of hidden disability. These are becoming relatively well known, meaning that they could easily act as magnets for pickpockets and other people with less than pleasant intentions. It’s worth looking at the more discrete items than the lanyards eg. the travel wallets, pin badges, wrist bands.

Priority seating

Some of the train operating companies have created schemes to issue priority cards or badges to particular groups of people who hav difficulty standing during train journeys. I haven’t included reference here to the schemes aimed at people who are pregnant. Some of these cover buses and trams as well. The ones requiring documentation probably involve too much bureaucracy for anybody who is able / confident enough to ask for a seat, as they convey no entitlement to a seat and are intended as an aid to persuade other passengers to give up their seats. But there are probably people for whom the bureaucracy burden is worth it, so it is worth knowing about them.

c2c – require certain documentation before they will issue a badge indicating a need for a priority seat.

Great Northern Rail – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Great Western Railway require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Greater Anglia are offering two varieties of “please offer me a seat” badges at certain train stations / on request. They also offer a priority seating card on receipt of certain documentation.

London Northwestern Railway – are unclear about whether they require documentation to issue priority seating cards.

Nottingham City Transport (together with Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Express Transit) offer both “please offer me a seat” badges and “happy to stand for you badges” to anybody who wants them.

South Eastern Railway – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card and badge.

Southern – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Thameslink Railway – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card.

Transport for Greater Manchester send out “please offer me a seat” badges on request.

Transport for London – send out “please offer me a seat” badges and cards to anyone in Greater London and South East England who asks for one.

West Midlands Network offer “please offer me a seat” badges and cards on request to people who live in the west midlands.

West Midlands Railway – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Transport Assistance Cards – buses

A number of the bigger bus companies have produced Transport Assistance Cards, generally in the form of .pdf files that can be downloaded and printed, so you can cut out and add the relevant cards to your travel wallet so they can be shown to the bus driver. They are mostly repetitive, with the occasional card that’s specific to one operator. You could always go for a blank piece of paper/card with your own message.

Like the journey assistance cards made by the train operating companies these are probably most useful for people who have difficulties communicating in spoken English. These ones are also potentially useful where:

  • you want to use written communication to avoid drawing other passengers’ attention to your communication [eg. you might want the driver to know to wait till you’ve sat down before moving off, without disclosing your balance difficulties to everyone else on the bus]
  • you have to do a lot of communicating about your needs and it helps you to not have to do all of it verbally / to use a visual reinforcement.

Some of the cards I’ve found are:

Generic request form – for sending to your local bus company if you don’t have printing facilities.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport make two generic pages of cards, intended for bus companies to “personalise” – page one and page two


First Group

Nottingham City Transport

Travel South Yorkshire provide printable cards in both colour and black and white.


COVID-19 – movement restrictions / “lockdown”

Guidance is not law. [except for some odd occasions where it is]

The Regulations (ie. the law) restricting people from leaving where they’re living is – read Regulation 6

The guidance produced by the government does not reflect the law – it is much more restrictive. The Court will only enforce law, not guidance, so get some proper advice before paying any fixed penalty notice. [The regime of fixed penalty notices here seems like it could turn into a money making exercise/tax on the poor and others who fail to get advice that will allow them to defend any proposed prosecution.]

You can leave your home if you have a “reasonable excuse” and a non-exhaustive list of examples is given.

Without doing things that are currently a really bad idea because they increase the risk of spreading the virus ie. holding a party, BBQ or other event with lots of people attending and being closer to one another than 2 metres or going mountaineering or somewhere else you might get into difficulties of the sort requiring a mountain rescue team to help you out of, there is a lot of scope for being outside your home.

If you need/want to exercise outdoors more than once a day, whilst following the advice about social distancing, go for it. Same if you have a child who is used to be able to be outside and needs a lot of exercise.

If you want to deliver something to a family member or friend who doesn’t meet the current definition of “vulnerable” go for it.

If you’re sharing your home with others and it’s all got a bit tense, or worse, it’s OK to go out.

Public health is important, but so is the government being honest in its publications. There’s no good reason for the government to be issuing guidance that is so much more restrictive than the legislation without acknowledging that that’s what it’s doing.

Separate to the Regulations, thinking about the health implications at present, it’s worth being cautious around activities that pose a higher risk of injury, even if they’re ones you routinely do as a household or individually. Trampolining can cause broken arms/wrists. Various DIY jobs pose the risk of injury. The risks are of getting poorer treatment because the hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and of catching COVID-19 in or around the hospital.