Inspectors review special needs’ care
Posted on: 5 February 2019
Children with special needs in Devon have not been getting all the support they need from education, health and care staff, according to inspectors.
A new report from the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted says the partners have been too slow to implement improvements in the way services are planned and co-ordinated and must do better.
In the first inspection of its kind, five inspectors from the CQC and Ofsted spent a week in Devon last month to look at how all partners were working together to support children and families with special needs and their report has just been published.
They spoke to children and young people with special needs and their parents and carers as well as local authority and NHS officers and schools.
Lead inspector Stephen McShane concludes:
“There is a strong commitment from staff in the local area, schools and other settings to improve the lives of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
“Individual staff and settings are valued and praised by families.”
He says the agencies have worked well together to produce a strategy to improve the experiences of children with SEND and some parents have already noticed improvements and that “things are getting better”, but the impact of the work is not yet fully evident.
Mr McShane says the early identification of children with the most complex needs is a strength and young people with SEND achieve positive academic outcomes.
Parents say they receive good support from both special and mainstream schools and from special educational needs’ coordinators and confirm the ‘excellent practice’ of individual professionals. This is a significant strength, says Mr McShane.
Work to involve young people and parents in the commissioning of new children’s community health services is also praised.
But, he says, the national reforms of 2014 which introduced single plans for education, health and care for young people with SEND have not been implemented quickly enough.
This distresses and upsets families and causes frustration for frontline staff in schools and colleges.
Waiting times for diagnosing autism are too long and there is considerable dissatisfaction with arrangements for accessing mental health services.
Communication with parents is not effective, says Mr McShane.
Today Jo Olsson, who chairs the Devon Children and Families Partnership Executive, said:
“We fully accept all the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
“The inspection told us that our strategy and action plans are sound and the response to younger children with more complex needs works well.
“The commitment, dedication and hard work of leaders and staff is recognised and the educational outcomes for children with SEND are good in Devon.”
Ms Olsson said improvements had been made in the production of individual Education, Health and Care Plans or EHCPs but there was still a long way to go.
“The SEND reforms were introduced in 2014 but our work as a partnership didn’t start in earnest until late in 2016,” she said.
“As a consequence, very many families experienced a service that was poor, which is unacceptable.
“We apologise sincerely and are all determined to build on our recent improvements.
“We know that families of children with SEND need the system to work well together and with them if the complex needs of their children are to be met, their children are to flourish in childhood and be ready to embrace all the challenges and opportunities that life has to offer.
“There are about 4,700 children with an EHCP in Devon. Too many found the partnership with professionals very difficult; they felt frustrated, anxious, angry, disappointed, distressed and upset.
“Some know that the system is getting better. They know that because they have experienced it, but many others don’t believe it. Trust and confidence are too low and must be rebuilt.
“Our delivery plan is delivering the improvements we need to see in the timeliness and quality of EHCPs, though we know there is still a long way to go.
“This means making a radical change in our relationships with each other and with parents.
“It is about more than communication, though this is vitally important, it is also about fundamental values of integrity, respect and courage.
“The inspectors recognised the joint commissioning strengths in the recent re-procurement of children’s community health services.
“Nevertheless, we know that we lost precious time, particularly in relation to the development of our response to autism spectrum disorder, an area where we also need to see radical change.”
Ms Olsson said all partners will work closely together to ensure the required improvements are delivered quickly and effectively.
They will also report regularly to senior leaders and Ofsted on the progress being achieved.