Empowering families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities

CORONAVIRUS: Frequently Asked Questions

Produced in partnership with
West Sussex Parent Carer Forum logo

The information on Coronavirus on these web pages has been written and compiled by Reaching Families and West Sussex Parent Carer Forum using trusted local and national resources. Given the picture is changing daily we cannot take responsibility for the information or any actions taken as a result. We will be adding more information as and when we receive it so please keep visiting these pages to stay up-to-date.

Last updated: 3rd April 2020, 3:00 pm

see also Coronavirus Information >> Stay Connected >>

What are the rules on staying at home and away from others?

1. Stay at home, except for very limited purposes
2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.

Everyone must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

What does this mean for me?

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded.

If you work in a critical sector outlined in this guidance, or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school, nursery or pre-school. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.

This information is from here.

The Family Information Service can offer help and advice with nursery, pre-school and school settings that are open to meet these needs.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

We know that families caring for a child with SEND may be particularly worried about the COVID-19 coronavirus. We therefore wanted to share some information for parents and carers that might help. You can access current UK Government Guidelines and advice here.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

The NHS has identified the symptoms as experiencing either:

  • A high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • A new continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing continuously

Should I go to the doctor if I have a temperature or cough?

No. The NHS advise that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days. If you live with other people, you and they should stay at home for at least 14 days to avoid spreading the infection outside the home. If you get worse or your symptoms last longer than 7 days you should call NHS 111.

Am I or my child in a “vulnerable group”?

The government hasn’t given any specific advice on vulnerable children but has said the groups mentioned in this link should be particularly vigilant in social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.

The government has provided further advice on Extremely Vulnerable groups, and is creating a register of those people who may need additional help to remain isolated during this time (we believe this may mean support with access to emergency food and medication deliveries) – the link to register for this is here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable.

You will need the NHS number of the extremely vulnerable person in your household, so that they can confirm your status against NHS records.

For information on whether you fall into the extremely vulnerable group, and what action you should take, check here.

If you think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

I need help or want to offer support, where can I go?

If you believe you are in a vulnerable group, or are having difficulty during this time, please register with the West Sussex Community Hub, which will help you to find support locally. You can also call on 033 022 27980, lines are open 8am to 8pm.

What should I do if I need to self-isolate?

You should follow the NHS advice about staying at home. Where possible you should try to get someone else to care for the child(ren) so that you can self-isolate in a separate room. You ideally need to keep two metres away from others, sleep in a separate bed, and use your own towels. Please see more advice here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/.

Reaching Families are using their Facebook group to enable parents to ask for and offer help with things like shopping, deliveries, etc. You can join the group here.

West Sussex County Council have set up a Community Hub to register for or to offer help. You can also call them on 033 022 27980.

There are also a number of Mutual Aid Facebook groups being established at a local and county level.

You can search for mutual aid groups at https://covidmutualaid.org.

Some individuals and neighbourhoods are also offering help via a #viralkindness postcard that has taken off nationally.

In addition to my child with SEND/underlying medical condition, I also care for an elderly relative. What should I do?

As both elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk we advise you to do all you can to minimise spread of the infection according to the latest government advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Coronavirus is a real threat to vulnerable members of my family, should we consider an Advanced Care Plan or ReSPECT document for them?

There is a lot of information in the media about whether some people will get treatment if they need it because of Covid-19. There is a Clinical Frailty Score (CFS) system, which could be used to help Doctors make decisions on whether a person has a good chance of recovery if they receive intensive care treatment, or whether palliative care, where there comfort is the most important consideration, is more appropriate. This CFS system is primarily designed for older people, but it had raised concern that it puts children and adults with learning disabilities &/or medical conditions at a disadvantage in securing treatment.

The NHS Specialised Clinical Frailty Network was quick to make it clear it did not recommend the CFS be used for those with learning disabilities and other groups. “It [the CFS] may not perform as well in people with stable long term disability such as cerebral palsy, whose outcomes may be very different compared to older people with progressive disability. We would advise that scale is not used in these groups.” However, it said other aspects of the guidance – including discussing the risks and benefits of critical care support with patients, carers or advocates – were still relevant.

Therefore, discussing with your Doctor, Paediatrician or Specialist, whether an Advanced Care Plan, or a ReSPECT (Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment) document, might be worth considering, could be an option. These documents can take into account many different situations, and can focus on whether there is a progressive deterioration in health and quality of life, or whether that with the exception of acute illness, health is stable and quality of life is good. Your medical professional can provide advice and support with this, you may be able to request to speak to a Palliative Care team or discuss this with someone from the Hospice or Community Nursing Team if you are under one. There are also resources online that can help you to think about what treatment options you do and don’t want to consider.


Should I be asking my child’s doctor for additional medication for them at this time?

GPs and pharmacies are reassuring patients that medical supply chains are in place and working well but we have also read stories about shortages and delays. Check your child’s supply of medication now and, if you are worried about running out, you should call your GP surgery or Community Paediatrician and talk to them about reordering.

Should/can we stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene products or over the counter medicine? Can GPs help as some shops are already empty?

PPE like masks and gloves are in short supply across all local authorities. We’ll keep you updated if we get information about supply chains or solutions. Most supermarkets are now operating restrictions on the amount of sanitary goods, medicines and food staples that people can buy so theoretically supplies will be maintained but you may need to get there early in the morning or ask staff when deliveries are expected.

If you have care staff from an agency providing care to your home, they should continue to provide their own supplies of PPE and they should be able to order supplies as necessary through processes set up by Public Health England to respond to this pandemic.

If you already get pain relief medication via prescription, you will be able to reorder this via your nominated pharmacy, otherwise you would have to contact your GP first to request it. If the big supermarkets don’t have any paracetamol or Calpol, try your local corner shop or convenience store who may keep stocks behind the counter. Alternatively, ask some of your neighbourhood or online networks.

My child has high anxiety/mental health issues and is very worried about the CV/Covid-19. What can I do to support them?

The Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP), from the British Psychological Society, have released a statement:

Being out of school for an indeterminate length of time, with reduced access to outdoor play facilities and social spaces is likely to be difficult for many children.

Adults will need to be aware of their stress responses, and also be able to recognise how children and young people are exhibiting signs of stress. Signs of stress will vary for every child.

Adults will need to help younger children to understand and label their emotions, and help them to do things that will reduce their stress level. Exercise, art, drama, music and other creative activities are good choices.

The DECP advice was summarised as:

  • Be truthful but remember your child’s age.
  • Allow children to ask questions.
  • Try to manage your own worries.
  • Give practical guidance e.g. how to wash your hands.

The DECP resource paper for schools and parents can be found here.

Special Needs Jungle has produced this useful article.

The Government have produced this document.

There are easy to read, video resources and social stories explaining coronavirus for children and young people, for example:

Public Health England - Looking after your feelings and your body







I have high anxiety/mental health issues of my own and I am getting very anxious about the CV/Covid-19, what should I do/who can help me?

It is understandable to feel anxious in times like these. There are a number of online resources to help with coping strategies. In particular we would recommend the following (links are shortened for legibility):


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My child has an EHCP, can I send them to school or nursery? Will they receive all their EHCP provision?

Children with EHC Plans are prioritised for school and nursey attendance, this also includes children with a draft EHCP.

IMPORTANT - Whilst children with EHCPs are part of the cohort of pupils prioritised for attendance at school the initial overriding principle is that if children can be safely supported and looked after at home then they should be. This is to maximise the process of social distancing in response to the Coronavirus.

If your child does not have an EHCP but a request has been made for one, the process will continue as much as possible, but it is important that families understand that whilst every effort will be made to process the agreed assessments and seek the required advice the process may be subject to unavoidable delays due to staffing absence and school closures.

The SEN Assessment Team will keep families informed.

Schools and nurseries/pre-schools need to work safely with their own staff shortages, so please check with your child’s setting for individual circumstances.

The DfE provided an update guidance document on vulnerable children and young people on the 27th March 2020. You can find the full guidance here.

This guidance allows some changes to the precise provision in EHC plans; with local authorities needing instead to apply ‘reasonable endeavours’ to support these children and their families. As such, while we are in this Coronavirus situation and a local authority is unable to secure the full range of provision stated in a plan, as long as they use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do this, they won’t be penalised for failing to meet the existing duty.

My child is entitled to go to school (& has a confirmed place during this time), will they still be entitled to transport?

The Coronavirus Bill allows for some statutory provisions to be disallowed, this means that it has amended the provision of free transport to become “reasonable endeavours”, West Sussex County Council have posted this statement online:

  • Journeys at school times may have changed to run slightly earlier or later.
  • Buses that usually divert to a school gate may no longer do so and children may need to walk from the nearest stop on the ‘standard’ route.
  • A change of bus may now be necessary rather than there being a ‘through journey’.
  • Children who travel on county council-provided transport (coach, minibus or taxi) should still have access to a full service, but due to possible staff shortages, some flexibility will no doubt be needed and appreciated.
  • All parents who do not accompany their children to school are advised to have a contingency plan agreed with their child in case transport is late or does not arrive. This is particularly important at the moment.

My child is going through EHC needs assessment but does not have a draft EHCP, are they part of the priority group?

Currently they are not part of the priority group. SENAT will continue with the assessment as best they can but until they issue a draft EHCP these pupils do not become part of the priority group.

At the point of agreeing a draft EHCP they will discuss with parents/school the wish for them to return to school. Decisions and actions associated with individual pupils returning to school will be made as is most sensible for that pupil and taking into account the current challenges.

There have been exceptions made to the statutory timeframes associated with EHC needs assessments, because of the current situation. Where there needs to be a health contribution to the assessment, it is likely that health professionals will apply the exception they have to respond in their usual timeframe (which is usually 6 weeks).

There are also exceptions allowed for educational settings if they are closed for 4 or more weeks, schools are not required to respond to requests for information until they are open. These situations could impact on the overall timescales for the assessment and the SEN assessment team will liaise with families to keep them updated.

I’m worried we will be asked to provide some education or learning for our children whilst they are off school, but I wouldn’t know where to start.

Schools will have sent home resources for the children. Clearly, this may be much harder for some children with learning difficulties or additional needs, or if you have to work from home as well as look after the children. There are lots of tips online from experienced home educators, including advice to create a clutter-free learning space and a schedule to help you all know what to expect and keep on track, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your children as this is going to be new for everyone. Remember exercise and fresh air will be beneficial for you all, so try to get plenty into your day, a great idea we’ve seen is to “walk to school”, to go for a walk in the morning before you start any activities, just as though you were walking to school.

Compass Card have compiled a web page called Leisure, Learning & Lock-down which provides useful information on things to do whilst coronavirus prevents us moving around freely. You can access this here.

For further information on educational resources please visit our general information page on coronavirus.

Where can I go to get support to help keep my child safe online?

There is a lot of support available to keep your child safe online. Below are some useful links to help parents and carers:

  • Thinkyouknow (advice from the National Crime Agency to stay safe online)
  • Internet matters (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
  • Parent info (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
  • LGfL (support for parents and carers to keep their children safe online)
  • Net-aware (support for parents and careers from the NSPCC)

This information was included in this document.

How long will schools be closed for?

The Government have stated that schools and other education settings will be closed until further notice.

I’m worried I won’t be able to cope if schools are shut for a long time. Who should I call?

Nobody knows how this situation will play out and if, when, and for how long schools will be shut. If you are worried about how you will support your child at home then please talk to your child’s school in the first instance. You can always contact West Sussex Carers Support Response Line on 0300 028 8888 or Samaritans 0845 790 9090, https://www.carerssupport.org.uk/our-services/carer-response-line/ for additional support and seek peer support from other parents/carers on the Reaching Families Facebook Group or other local parent-led SEND groups.

The following resources have some helpful tips for coping with a lockdown:



What advice and support is there for Siblings of Children with SEND?

At this difficult time, siblings will be spending far more time at home together than usual. This could be adding extra tension and creating more anxieties. Where possible, try to set aside some time for each child and help them to talk about their feelings, or acknowledge their concerns, but try to keep it age appropriate – see the questions above on anxiety. Keeping in contact with friends and other family members via technology is just as important as getting some exercise.

YoungSibs have a website with lots of suggestions and advice.

My child gets angry and can become violent, what can I do?

Young Minds offer support and advice to Parents, Children and Young People on many aspects of mental health, with additional resources for during this Coronavirus situation. One area that has been of concern for many families is the increased risk of violence while on lockdown. Young people with developmental issues may struggle to manage angry feelings. Children who have speech and language problems can get frustrated when they find it difficult to understand and communicate their emotions.

When a child or young person is very angry, they can get verbally or physically aggressive and even violent. YoungMinds provide the following advice:

“It can be hard to help them, especially when they say there is nothing wrong and that everyone else has the problem. If safe to do so for you and the child remove yourself from the room. If not safe to do so, and you feel that you or anyone else are at immediate risk of harm, warn the child that if the aggression does not stop you will contact the police and follow through if they do not stop.

Calling the police to intervene in a situation with your child is an incredibly difficult thing for any parent to have to do. If your safety, or the safety of other family members, is in question, this may be the only course of action. The police can be incredibly supportive in responding to mental health issues, and can section someone under the Mental Health Act, if appropriate.”

What support can we expect from Reaching Families and West Sussex Parent Carer Forum?

The challenging times we find ourselves in requires Reaching Families to reinvent how it works, use technology and creativity to reach families in need and find new ways of ensuring parents and families in our community can stay connected. Building on our experience providing information, training and peer support we will be adjusting our work to offer parents and families the following wide range of support during the Coronavirus outbreak:

  • We will continue to provide up-to-date INFORMATION on Coronavirus including researching and publishing a series of relevant FACT SHEETS for our families.
  • We will deliver LIVE CHAT, TRAINING WEBINARS and VIDEOS on relevant subjects like anxiety, behaviour, food issues, resilience, home-schooling and resilience.
  • We will provide affordable access to emergency TELEPHONE COUNSELLING for parents struggling with mental health issues.
  • We will provide TELEPHONE BEFRIENDING to parents who would benefit from the emotional support and understanding of another parent-carer.
  • We will host VIDEO CONFERENCING sessions on Zoom to allow our Umbrellas members to stay connected (new members are very welcome!).
  • We will use our FACEBOOK GROUP to enable parents to stay connected and reach out for emotional and practical support including help with shopping, deliveries, etc.
  • We will do everything we can…

To join our group click here.
You can still contact our team via admin@reachingfamilies.org.uk.

In these times of uncertainty and change, WSPCF remains open for business, despite our office being closed for the foreseeable future. We are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that every parent carer across West Sussex has the opportunity to seek the information, training and support that they need. We are also available to attend meetings with our partners across education, health and social care - remotely of course. The show must go on!

We have had to make some changes to the way we deliver our work, and we are using technology to deliver some of our most popular events and activities.

Our promise to you follows:


  • We will research and publish up to date information on Coronavirus, including information that is relevant to parent carers
  • We will continue to provide up to date information on SEND - digitally where possible
  • We will signpost parent carers to other organisations who may offer more specialist support
  • We will continue to provide information and inspiration through a broad range of daily Facebook posts


  • We will run Virtual Pop Ups hosted by our team of Parent Carer Reps - come as you are and join in the chat
  • We will support you via telephone, email or Facebook Messenger
  • We will encourage connection and dialogue between parent carers via our Facebook page
  • We will be there when you need us - including during the Easter holidays


  • We will develop our website so that members can access our top tips online. Watch this space!


  • We will remain in contact with our partners across Education, Health and Social Care, attending virtual meetings where possible, to represent the voice of parent carers across West Sussex

Please feel free to spread the word amongst your friends and families. If you have any questions, or would like any help as you navigate these difficult times, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
Twitter - @ws_pcf

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My child’s PA is symptom free, would they still be able to come and help/take my child out now schools are closed?

Yes, though Social Distancing measures are in place and you should only leave the house for permitted reasons, see above.

What advice should I be giving to my child’s PA about self-isolating, whether they should still be working, etc.? 

As employers, we have responsibilities and we want to be sure we are doing things properly Independent Lives have produced some really useful, detailed guidance about what to do if your PA is self isolating either because they are displaying symptoms or because you feel it’s safer for them to do so for everyone’s wellbeing. See https://www.independentlives.org/coronavirus (the really useful info starts half way down the page).

We know that some families are being creative with their care and may be utilising video calls and other services, such as having carers shop for essential supplies instead, but this may not be an option for many families.

Is there any extra funding available if my child’s PA can do extra hours?

There has been no statutory guidance on this as yet, so we would advise you contact your Social Worker or Choice Social Worker to discuss your individual circumstances.

I am worried my child’s PA or respite provider will get sick/close and I won’t be able to cope. Who else can help me?

If your PA is coming from an agency, please speak to them about fulfilling their hours, as they should put steps in place to ensure they provide their contracted care to the best of their ability.

For more advice on families caring for children with serious and complex health needs, see this information from Well Child, Carers UK & GOSH:


My child is due to have an Social Communication / Autism assessment or further assessment by a paediatrician in the Child Development Centre, will this go ahead?

We understand that NHS England have advised all Child Development Centres to cancel any appointments for assessment that are non-urgent at the present time. We expect that you will receive confirmation of this directly if you are awaiting an appointment.

We understand that CDC’s will continue to offer appointments – almost all by phone- for children with complex neuro-disability and epilepsy. Children will be seen if the clinical need is urgent.

My child has currently got therapy support or other appointments coming up. Will these still be going ahead?

We recommend you contact the provider in question if you have not heard the week before your appointment and confirm before you set off to travel.

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Money questions


What is happening with Disability benefits – DLA & PIP – during this time?

From Tuesday 24 March there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all disability benefits for three months; this includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. Any face-to-face assessments for disability benefits were stopped on 17th March, for a period of at least 3 months.

For PIP claimants, if an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed. If an assessment has been scheduled, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider.

Where awards are due to expire, they will be extending end-dates so that claimants continue to receive financial support at their current rate during this period.

If people experience a change in their needs they are still encouraged to contact the Department for Work & Pensions to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.

My child would normally receive free school meals and I am worried about the extra costs of feeding my family when the schools are closed

Under normal circumstances, schools are not expected to provide free school meals to disadvantaged children who are not attending due to illness or if the school is closed. However, schools are expected to provide meals or vouchers for those children entitled to free school meals, the Government has issued guidance and set up a scheme for schools to access shopping vouchers and we recommend you contact your child’s school to find out what plans they have in place.

Children and Family Centres

All groups and events for children, young people and families have been stopped. Nine centres remain open across West Sussex to act as support centres, offering crisis payments and for distributing food parcels. The list of these centres is as follows:

  • Adur and Worthing – Durrington and Kingston Buci Family Centre
  • Arun – Treehouse Children and Family Centre
  • Chichester – Chichester Children and Family Centre
  • Crawley – Bewbush Children and Family Centre
  • Horsham – Hurst Road Youth Centre
  • Mid Sussex - Park Youth Centre

Contact details and addresses can be found on their website. Please contact them if you need support.

Trussell Trust Food banks

If you cannot afford food during this Coronavirus situation, please contact the Trussell Trust:

I am self-employed, what help am I entitled to?

If you’re self-employed and can’t work because you’re ill with coronavirus, you won’t be able to get statutory sick pay (SSP). If you pay national insurance you might be eligible to claim contribution-based or ‘new style’ ESA (Employment & Support Allowance).

The Government has announced a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, with those eligible receiving a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years. This will provide a grant of up to £2,500 per month for at least 3 months. HMRC will identify eligible taxpayers and contact them directly with guidance on how to apply.

Grants will be paid in a single lump sum instalment covering all 3 months, and will start to be paid at the beginning of June. Therefore, if you are in financial difficulties now, you should apply for universal credit.

I am an employee, what help am I entitled to?

If you're following government guidance because you have coronavirus symptoms, you'll be considered unfit for work. You'll also be considered unfit for work if you're staying at home, or 'self-isolating', because you've been in contact with someone with coronavirus. You'll get statutory sick pay (SSP) from day one if you're considered unfit for work and are usually entitled to it.

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance. If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home.

If your employer cannot cover staff costs because of Covid-19, they may be able to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, this will mean you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. You are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off. To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Further information on coronavirus and claiming benefits can be found here and here.

How will I pay my rent or my mortgage if I have to stop working?

Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction. At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.

Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months. This will give people the necessary time to recover and ensure they do not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage in the interim.

How can I get food and essential items from the shops?

If you are self-isolating because you or anyone in your household has symptoms of Covid-19/Coronavirus, then you should not leave the house to do any shopping. You should enlist the help of friends, family or neighbours to drop essential urgent supplies to your doorstep with no contact at all (see What should I do if I need to self-isolate?).

Stores selling food and essential items are remaining open, many have reduced their opening hours in order to ensure they can increase cleaning; restock shelves and protect staff especially when they have a reduced workforce. Some local stores have begun offering deliveries to their local communities and may have supplies of essentials. It is also more likely that you could call or message them to check availability or ask them to hold something for you, before you leave the house. Social media and the various groups set up have collated many lists on which stores are offering deliveries, check with your local Community Coronavirus Support Group.

It is highly recommended to use cashless payment options, and even contactless if possible.

The major supermarkets have put in place some restrictions on purchases and have set aside some hours for vulnerable and key workers. Check with your local stores and/or social media.


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see also
Coronavirus Information >> Stay Connected >>