Many folk are asking questions about what happens with exemption applications, and declarations during this shut down period. I've emailed all regional offices, and received feedback from each one. The national office has also put a brief update on their Home Education webpages. Here's what you need to know:
Ministry employees are working from home
As doing it this way is new to most of them, they are unsure about whether timeframes for processing will be affected. However I've had a number of reports back from families who have submitted applications during lockdown so far that they have been approved very swiftly.
Regional staff will contact families to let them know that their application has been approved. At this point some regional offices are saying they will email the exemption certificate to families, others are saying they will have to wait until they are back in the office to access printers and will post them out. Some plan to do both.
"The Covid-19 lockdown has restricted how we process home-school applications and declarations. However, we will do our best to ensure no family who wishes to formally home-school their child, or children, is disadvantaged.
As our staff are having to work from home, local offices will only be able to process emailed applications.
If your application is approved you will receive your certificate of exemption by email.
If you have any queries please contact your local Ministry office."
Six monthly declarations and allowances
The lovely staff member I spoke to, who like everyone was taken by surprise by the announcement of impending lockdown, hastily printed off all declarations, took them home with him, and personally stuffed envelopes and sent them out, so families would get them (big ups to Kenneth!)
He advises me that while families can send the declarations back, they have no way of processing them, regardles of whether they are posted or emailed. This is because the system they are working with is complex and antiquated, partly paper based, and significant parts cannot be done remotely. IF the lockdown ends of schedule, they hope to make the payment as intended in the week starting May 18th, but if it is extended, it may be June or so before payments can be made.
Some families have already contacted the Ministry and emailed their forms. That is fine. HOWEVER, it would be much more helpful if the bulk of forms were posted to the Ministry, so they can work through them systematically as soon as they are able.
We discussed various aspects, and the following are important recommendations:
Note: this time around, for the first time ever, students NSNs are included in the declarations. You are going to want a copy so you have that info for the future too. See THIS for more.
2) If you have no access to mail services at this time and/or have not received your declaration in a reasonable period of time (say the end of this week), then you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a copy to be sent to you electronically. They do have the capacity to send them out by email on request, but not to reprint any at this time. Please give it a bit of time first though - post is likely to be slow currently.
3) If you cannot access postal services to return your declaration, then you can also email the completed return to email@example.com. But again, only do this if you cannot post, as if we overwhelm their inbox, mistakes are more likely to be made than if they're working through a physical pile of paper in due course.
"As stated, the Covid-19 lockdown has restricted how we process applications and declarations.
The date when declarations are due and allowances paid may be subject to change. We will seek to provide further advice over the coming weeks.
If you have any questions you can contact resourcing support at: firstname.lastname@example.org"
- Exemption applications can still be sent into regional Ministry offices, but should be emailed rather than posted, as only emailed applications can be processed at this time.
- Declarations can be signed and posted back in - they will be processed once lockdown ends, though if it is extended payment dates may be delayed. Emailing declarations will not speed up processing, and too many emailed declarations could cause issues and actually slow things down. Where needed, though, emailing is an option - see above for details.