The way parents and carers are kept informed of their child’s special educational needs and disability services in Suffolk will be independently reviewed.
This review will be carried out by a senior professional with no links to, or direct involvement with, Suffolk’s provision and will focus on the processes, communication protocols and family-facing elements of SEND services within Suffolk County Council. This review will determine if current systems in place are sufficient.
Councillor Rachel Hood, Suffolk County Council’s newly appointed cabinet member for education, SEND and skills, said:
“I know that every parent and carer wants the best for their children, especially when it comes to education and care. Suffolk County Council want the same and must strive to provide the very best services we can.
“The findings of this immediate independent review will help us to understand our strengths and weaknesses and identify any changes that need to be made. We are approaching matters with an open mind and with the best interests of children, their parents and carers at heart.
“The way in which SEND provision is delivered with our partners has improved significantly over the last 18 months, but we must always work to improve what we do, especially when we are faced with increasing demand for special educational support.
“I am newly appointed to this Suffolk County Council cabinet portfolio and am determined to build on the progress that has already been made. It is important to recognise that significant reform and improvement has taken place recently and that further improvements can take time, but SEND provision is one of our main priorities for this year. This urgent review will build on existing achievement, and offer insight for further improvement.”
There has been some criticism of SEND services in Suffolk, which is delivered in partnership by Suffolk County Council, Suffolk’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups and education settings. Details of who will conduct the review, alongside the timescales, is to be confirmed.
The specific scope of the review is also being finalised, but is expected to look at:
- The effective flow of cases
- Communication with young people and families
- Processes for dealing with incoming enquires from young people and families in a timely manner
- A focus on the family-facing elements of the service
- The allocation of provision and, where appropriate, placement in a timely way for children
Anne Humphrys, Co-Chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said: “We know that many families still experience frustration with a system that doesn’t always respond to the needs of their children and young people. SPCN welcomes the independent review following our feedback about how families’ experience services.
“We hope it will result in change that improves the lived experience of families.”
In Suffolk nearly 18,000 young people are supported in some way through local SEND services, including 5,900 with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) or those receiving support in education settings. Demand has grown very significantly. Prior to the 2014 national SEND reforms, Suffolk held approximately 3,000 statements of SEND.
Joint local area SEND inspection of Local Authority (LA) & Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) December 2016
- This required a written statement of Action to address key weaknesses
SEND Revisit January 2019
- Governance now well established. At that stage, the quality of the SEND statutory assessments and EHC plans, the local offer and joint working were judged to have not improved enough.
Progress Review November 2020
- “you have now been able to demonstrate that…..”
- “….you have fully addressed the issues regarding leadership identified by inspectors during the revisit”
- “…the improvements to the timeliness of EHCPs since 2019 is commendable…school representatives confirmed the improved quality”
- “….significant and satisfactory progress in improving the communications with a wide range of stakeholders”
- “….anticipate a particular focus on the progress in implementing you plans for mental health services and the neurodevelopment pathway”
Investment and improvement:
- Establishment of the Local Offer website as a co-produced, accessible information source about the services available for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities. It achieves well over 1,000 hits per month.
- £45.1m capital programme to create an additional 870 specialist education places over a 5-year period to 2024
- More timely issuing of EHC Plans: 18% in 2016 to 80% for 2020 (national average 58%). Year-to-date performance in 2021 >95%
- Improved quality of EHC plans measured by both internal and external audit
- Development of the Suffolk early intervention offer through increasing the capacity of the Specialist Education Services in 2018 and the ‘Graduated Response’ which describes, for schools, the support available from the LA and the expectations around the school’s duties to accurately identify and assess need, provide high quality learning experiences and implement appropriate intervention.
- Development of the Designated Clinical Officer role and Deputies in 2020 to support further development and integration of SEND in frontline health practice.
- Developed and implemented a revised high needs funding system that provides a fair and equitable system for all education providers
- Success of Activities Unlimited Service which is now supporting 5000 families with activities and short breaks
- £1m additional investment in Speech & Language Therapies by Ipswich & East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCGs.
- The establishment of an Emotional Wellbeing Hub, launched in April 2018, to simplify access to emotional wellbeing and mental health services. Further work is needed to make this as effective as it needs to be
- Co-production and implementation of the Moving into Adulthood person centred plan in 2019 so this in place for all young people with an EHCP age 13 plus
- Development of the Post-16 Transitions Guide. This won a national award in 2020 from NASEN as best publication.
SEND can cover a wide spectrum of needs that affects many aspects of their lives:
- behaviour or ability to socialise, for example they struggle to make friends
- social, emotional and mental health
- reading and writing, for example because they have dyslexia
- ability to understand things
- concentration levels, for example because of neuro-diversity
- physical health needs