SEND families are facing food difficulties.

calendarApril 29 2020

Parent group, Let Us Communicate (LUC), talks about why SEND families are facing food difficulties during the Covid-19 crisis. They call for urgent help now.

The LUC logo. A circle with 4 hands swirling together and meeting in the middle. The hands are 4 different bright colours - blue, yellow, green and red.

About Let Us Communicate

LUC was founded in 2013 in Newham, one of the poorest areas within the UK. We are an independent support group for parents/carers of children and young people (CYP) and adults with complex long-term Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND). Our aim is to raise SEND awareness and acceptance. We work with the parent carer forum and parent co-production teams to influence decision making and consultations on policies.

Image shows a roomful of parents sitting in a semi-circle  listening to a speaker in the centre.
Meeting of LUC parents

LUC is solely led by volunteers who are primarily parents and carers of children with SEND. The organisation has 335 members and run monthly workshops, hosts family fun days and expert professional training. We also engage with local authorities (LA), service providers, world class experts and local community organisations.

Making positive change happen!

To address the unmet needs of our communities most vulnerable members, we also offer support, advice and advocacy on a huge range of issues. occupational therapy. Through our work, we continue to support families to understand SEND and navigate the EHCP process. This has meant that many of our vulnerable CYP now have the educational placements and provision that suit their needs. Our work has also achieved much needed change within our local authority. With almost 7 years of engagement, we have built a strong reputation and trust within our community, and have raised more awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and pan-disability within Newham and beyond. LUC is turning negative experiences into positives for the whole family unit.

However, the Covid-19 crisis has created a dire situation for many SEND families which is not being recognised or dealt with by supermarkets or authorities.   SEND families are facing food difficulties and they need our help now.

Supermarkets – An urgent call for help!

We are reaching out because many of our SEND families are facing food difficulties. Families are experiencing challenges with shopping (online and instore), due to the shielding and self-isolation.

Supermarkets are not allowing more than one person to queue in line for shopping. This is leaving single parent SEND families, who have no support, stranded. We have children and young people who lick objects, touch inappropriately, have challenging behaviours, lunge at strangers, who simply cannot stay still and queue.  Their lack of understanding of social distancing and sensory processing issues places them at a much greater risk of contracting the virus. It also causes parents additional grief when attempting to shop as other shoppers do not understand and supermarkets refuse entry.

Due to the severe and complex needs of the majority of our children and young people, many of our SEND families are not attempting to go out at all. Leading to them having to greatly rely on local foodbanks and COVID-19 Mutual Aid groups for essentials. Contributing to this our families have restricted foods and many need specialist foods (gluten, diary free, soya free, lactose free). They are finding it extremely difficult to access these products.


Although vulnerable, we do not qualify for the priority online shopping slots and have to rely on fellow SEND families to help out with food and light shopping, putting them at high risk of contracting the virus also. In addition to this, is the emerging news of a new coronavirus-related condition arising in a number of children across all ages. It presents with a multi-system inflammatory state, requiring intensive care. Many SEND children have multiple conditions and are particularly vulnerable to infection, so this is yet another concern.

Lack of specialist food products

We have reached out to The5es local foodbank, as our database currently holds requests from over 141 families in difficulty but we are unable to fulfil their requests. In the first week of The5es launching the Food4SEND campaign, 63 SEND families were helped and 237 people were served. Although The5es is able to provide a top up of the basic essentials, we are still left with the predicament of sourcing vital specialist foods that make up a key part of the diet for many of our vulnerable SEND CYP and their families.

Given that the financial situations in many households has also changed immensely, this is an additional factor is leaving many families unable to afford overheads and food. The stories shared by families are heartbreakingly sad.

If you are able to help LUC source and distribute food to SEND families, particularly gluten, diary free, soya free, lactose free products, please contact them via:




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