Swift actions have already been taken to improve care for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), following a critical letter from Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) and the CQC (Care Quality Commission).
Kent County Council and the NHS are working together on a joint strategy to improve care for children with SEND and regain the trust of parents.
In a joint statement, Roger Gough, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, and Glenn Douglas, accountable officer for the eight Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Kent and Medway, said: “We are sorry the relationship between our organisations and parents and carers has broken down, that some families have lost trust in SEND provision within Kent, and that their experience of our services has often not been as good as it should have been.
“The national picture is similar to that in Kent with the majority of local areas inspected since the 2014 reforms being required to produce, as we are, a written statement of action (WSoA). But even though there has been an enormous increase in demand for assessments and resources across the country, there are things we must do, and are doing, to improve the situation in Kent.
“Parent/carer forums, additional staff members, and the formation of the SEND Improvement Board are just a few examples of the actions that have already been taken.
“These are the first steps in a long process – there is a lot work to be done and a lot of trust to be rebuilt. But as local leaders, not only do we have a duty to put right those things which are in our control, but we want to put them right. We owe it to the children and young people with SEND in Kent, and their families, to provide the service they deserve, and we will continue to work tirelessly, with parents and our partners, until we achieve that.”
A SEND Improvement board, made up of KCC and NHS experts, has been established, an action plan is underway, additional support staff have been recruited to speed up the response time to parents, and four new parent/carer forums are expected to up a running within a few months to ensure they have greater input in shaping the service – with many other positive steps already being actioned, some before the publication of the letter.
Mr Gough and Matt Dunkley, KCC’s Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education, will update the council’s Children’s, Young People and Education (CYPE) Cabinet Committee on the progress today (Tuesday, May 7). Last Tuesday (April 30), children and young people were invited to have their say on the way provision should be delivered during an NHS-led Kent and Medway Children’s and Young People’s Strategy day.
Between January 28 and February 1, 2019, Ofsted and the CQC assessed how well KCC, schools, Academy Trusts and all parts of the NHS identify and meet the needs of children and young people with SEND, as well as the outcomes they achieve.
A detailed letter sent to KCC identified a number of strengths but there were also areas of significant weakness. The Local Authority and Health Service were required to produce a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) setting out how they will work together with schools and academy trusts to improve the outcome for children with SEND in Kent.
The WSoA must be submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England by Friday, June 28. The two organisations will respond by Friday, July 12 and any required revisions must be finalised by Friday, August 9. The local area – KCC and the NHS – will then be subject to quarterly monitoring by the DfE and NHS England and a full re-inspection between 12 and 18 months after the WSoA has been approved.
Notes to journalists:
Many actions were already in play before the inspection took place, and these were sent to media when the letter was published in March. Staff are working with established parent charities and SEN managers are attending weekly drop-in advice sessions. More support staff have been employed to speed up the response time to parents and there are now more frequent opportunities for parents to provide feedback on satisfaction.
Below are new actions that have taken place since March:
- Revised role for SEN provision evaluation officers (specialist SEN teachers) to quality assure Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and the delivery of inclusive practice within schools
- Joint statutory assessment meetings for pre-school children being piloted to provide a child centred coordinated approach that ensures parents/carers are fully engaged in the creation of a plan that identifies their child’s needs and outcomes
- SEN staff now attend care, education and treatment reviews (CETRs) meetings to ensure a more coordinated response with health and social care
- Independent school placement panel of senior managers established to gatekeep decisions regarding out of county placements and ensure a more consistent approach
- Development of a new Local Offer has started, which will include much greater parent/carer and CYP (child/young person) input
- Development of a single team across Kent to oversee health services for children and young people, to share best practice and ensure consistent standards across the county
‘The SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years’ was introduced as part of the Children and Families Act 2014 on Monday, September 1, 2014. It brought about major changes to the way Local Authorities were required to provide for children and young people with SEND, including the introduction of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) to replace statements of special needs and learning difficulty assessments; extending the age a young person was entitled to assistance from three to 16 to 0 to 25; and changes to funding arrangements for High Needs pupils. See details provided by KCC at the time here: https://www.kelsi.org.uk/special-education-needs/special-educational-needs/send-strategy