Presented by Michele Lucas, the report outlined the recent Ofsted inspection of the SEND services in Children’s Services. The inspection had identified a number of strengths but also the weaknesses listed on page 43 of the agenda. The service had already begun the Draft Written Statement of Actions (WSoA) to address these weaknesses and would be sent out to the relevant partners for review before submission to Ofsted which was due for 12 August 2019.Once the WSoA was agreed by Ofsted, the service would be within the 18 month timeframe for Ofsted to come back for inspection.
Pointing out paragraph 2.4, the Chair sought clarification on whether it was already within the rights of parents to request Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP). Confirming this was the case, Michele Lucas went on to say that in reviews, the EHCP may not be required at that point because additional support was needed. Through discussions with parents, it would be identified whether an EHCP was needed or whether the child could benefit from additional support from other services.
Noting the increased creased staffing capacity mentioned in paragraph 3.4, the Chair asked if enough training was provided to staff. In response, Michele Lucas said there training opportunities in place for staff and new staff members were trained. The service also looked into the plans of how other Local Authorities undertook EHCPs and the service was willing to invest in training to ensure staff were ready and fully trained.
On the quality of EHCPs, Paula Robinson queried how an EHCP could be corrected if it was not of a certain standard. Explaining that not all EHCPs had been identified as of a poor standard through the inspection, Michele Lucas went on to explain that some areas within the plans did not meet expectations. These may have been due to a transfer of plans such as when a child had additional support in primary school but parents were concerned on whether the support would still be there when their child transferred into secondary school. There was a robust process in place but if SEN support was needed, then an EHCP was needed. She continued on saying that there was a culture shift in parents who recognised when support was needed for their child and this was a part of the service ensuring they engaged with communities to raise awareness.
On the Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service (EWMHS), Joshua Aldwinckle-Povey asked if there were plans in place to protect this service for SEND. Michele Lucas replied that the service was looking to develop the EWMHS further and despite focussing on the 3 areas of weaknesses identified by Ofsted, the service would not be losing focus on other areas within the service. The identified strengths from the Ofsted inspection would continue to develop, for example, Early Years had been identified as a strength and the service could look into this to see where the strength was and if it could be developed further to work across the phases from Early Years to Primary education.
Noting that Ofsted had identified a repeat of Level 1 courses in young people with SEND between the ages of 19 – 25 years old, Joshua Aldwinckle-Povey questioned how this issue was being addressed as it was concerning to the Youth Cabinet. Michele Lucas answered that the Council had agreed for the service to hire 2 additional members of staff to help young people into adulthood. These staff members would liaise with organisations such as Inspire and into the wider community to ensure all resources were available to help young people. Joshua Aldwinckle-Povey asked how young people could be involved in the decision making process of the services that they were a part of. Announcing that the service had just developed an engagement and participation plan, Michele Lucas went on to say that the plan was a part of the Bright Futures Network and could bring this to the Youth Cabinet for discussion.
In regards to record keeping, Nicola Cranch, Parent Governor Representative, asked whether the technology used was sufficient enough for this task. Michele Lucas answered that the service was looking at the systems and programmes used across the service and training and issues with systems would form part of the WSoA.
On the main findings on page 50, the Chair noted that bullet number 2 highlighted a lack of response or no response from the team. She mentioned that she had experience of this as well in the past and parents had contacted her with these issues too. The Chair went on to question how this issue will be resolved. Answering that there would additional capacity in staff to cover calls, Michele Lucas said that the education and skills team had undertaken training to ensure the response times were improved. She sympathised with parents’ frustration and had increased the staff numbers to cover the phones and the service ensured the website was up to date with response timelines.
Regarding the WSoA, the Chair suggested holding an extraordinary meeting for the Committee to have sight of the draft before its submission to Ofsted on 12 August 2019. The Democratic Services Officer, Wendy Le, proposed the date of 25 July 2019 to hold this meeting to which the Committee agreed on. Roger Harris explained that the WSoA would not be a final document for the 25 July 2019 meeting date but would be in its draft form. The progress of the WSoA would also be brought back to Committee on 8 October 2019 and it would become a standing item on the work programme going forward to ensure the Committee was monitoring the progress.
1.1 That O&S to note the work that has been undertaken to prepare our statement of action as a result of the result SEND inspection.
1.2 That O&S to monitor the progress of the statement of action in preparation for our re-inspection.