The Interim Strategic Director Children’s Services will submit Document “AB” which includes a Not For Publication Appendix 1) which provides an overview of the developments and progress in respect of the delivery of the SEND reforms.
(1) That the Committee note and comment on the contents of the report (Document “AB”) and the strength of the draft SEND Action Plan against the areas for rapid improvement.
(2) That the draft SEND Action Plan be referred to the Executive together with any recommendations for approval.
(Marium Haque – 01274 431078)
The Interim Strategic Director Children’s Services submitted Document “AB” which included a Not For Publication Appendix 1) which provided an overview of the developments and progress in respect of the delivery of the SEND reforms.
SEND Inspections of all local authorities and local areas over the period May 2016 to May 2021 would be undertaken to assess how effectively these duties were being met. An inspection of the Bradford area was imminent.
The Local Authority (LA) and relevant partners had undertaken a process of
Self Assessment in preparation for the pending inspection. The SEND Strategic Partnership Board had been re-launched with clear terms of reference, multi agency membership and 4 clear project work streams; Integrated Assessment and Service Delivery, Joint Commissioning, Co production and Engagement and Preparing for Adulthood and were supported by the SEND Transformation and Compliance team.
As part of the self assessment process the RAG ratings in the LA Audit Tool contained a large number of Amber ratings (Partial Compliance and Work in Progress), many of which could revert to Red or non compliance if progress was not sustained or quick enough. This and the work of the SEND Transformation and Compliance team had identified a number of areas which required immediate action to be taken.
The following comments and questions were made by members of the Committee and responses given:
· Re-organisation had left professionals struggling, parents confused and children suffering. Care needed to be taken to ensure that children did not “fall through the cracks” The quality of SENCO’s (Special Educational needs Co-ordinators) in schools varied widely which had led to a post code lottery. In response it was noted that efforts were being made to raise awareness through the Local Offer. Bradford Link was accessible across all age ranges and parents were signposted to talk to schools, early years settings or GP’s. My support Plans involved families from the start on how all agencies could support children at an early stage.
· A member referred to the historic practice of keeping children in mainstream schools and the reluctance to issue statements. In response it was noted that the national average of assessments completed within the 20 week period was 64.9% and that Bradford was well below this. The national benchmark had been to keep the number of statements under 2% however this was a long time ago. There were a range of other factors on how government funded the High needs Block going forward. The issue facing Bradford was to identify what the level of SEND was and where it needed to be. Decisions were made historically on moving funds from other blocks to the High needs Block by the Schools Forum as a whole and this was not linked directly to the low number of statements.
· A member referred to the difficulty in navigating the EHCP process. In response it was noted that the Integrated Assessment & Service Delivery workstream of the SEND Strategic Partnership Board was working to have a more joined up and integrated process that recognised the experience of families.
· Where does the Overview & Scrutiny Committee fit into the governance structure of the SEND Strategic Partnership Board? A recommendation that Overview & Scrutiny be included could be taken to the Board.
· There was a need to hear from groups representing service users.
· The problem of information sharing between Education and Health was highlighted.
· What were the barriers to taking action on the issues detailed in paragraph 5.2 of Document “AB” and how was the problem going to be addressed? Was it lack of funding or expertise? The Committee needed to have assurance that there would be specific action and the timescale for that action. In response reference was made to the national rules on sharing data and patient confidentiality. It was acknowledged that there was an issue regarding waiting lists for CAHMS however this may have been for a number of reasons and there would be no one easy solution. All schools had mental health champions and buddies which had been introduced at the instigation by young people and it was hoped that this would leave CAHMS to deal with only the more difficult cases.
· A member questioned that an EHCP could not be reviewed outside the annual process as the needs of the child could change in a short period of time. In response it was clarified that an annual review or interim annual review would have to be called to make any changes to an EHCP and that annual reviews did not just take place once a year. Changes could not be made to an EHCP as a desktop exercise.
· There had been an increase in requests from parents for EHCP’s and it was felt that this was because parents did not have confidence in the local authority to provide support for their children without an EHCP. In response it was noted that there had been an increase nationally in requests for EHCP’s however parents distrust of the system could not be ruled out. There was a need to ensure that My Support Plan process was robust and supported families.
· Reference was made to the necessity to consider the experience of service users and the needs of a diverse population. It was recognised that it was essential to ensure that services were joined up and that practitioners understood the needs of the child.
· How do the authority ensure that there is meaningful support for children with special educational need, especially those in mainstream schools? How is the authority identifying those children that are home schooled? My Support Plan should be used for children that did not have an EHCP, families and professionals were involved and this was reviewed termly. There was a statutory review of EHCP’s once a year. Both systems should ensure that support remains appropriate.
· A member was pleased to note that the allocation of a Caseworker system for existing EHCP’s and all EHC assessments were being developed and implemented, however it was pointed out that this had originally been identified in a report to the Committee in 2014. In response it was noted that the service was increasingly self aware and eager to understand where it was and where it needed to be. The task in hand was recognised and steps were being taken to drive forward significant improvements. The CCG was represented at the meeting and collective responsibility was recognised as was the need to ensure that all parts of the system supported the EHCP process.
· What was causing the delay in accessing CAMHS? There were a number of reasons such as the complexity of cases, budget reductions, teams had not grown to reflect the increase in demand and teachers referring young people to CAHMS with low levels of need. It was hoped that the Youth in Mind Buddy System would take away pressure form CAHMS to deal with the more complex cases.
· Members questioned whether families were being directed to the Local Offer. In response it was noted that schools were being reminded to put the Local Offer link on their web sites. Ways were being looked at of raising the profile of the Local Offer such as a Local Offer live event.
· A member related her first hand experience of the difficulty in accessing services and was concerned for the amount of teaching time lost during that time. In response it was acknowledged that there were too many parents and children for whom the service had not worked. The priority was to understand the depth of the issues.
(1) That the draft SEND Action Plan be referred to the Executive.
(2) That the Committee requests that the role of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee be added to the governance structure of the SEND Strategic Partnership Board.
(3) That representatives of the service users be invited to attend a meeting of the Committee to share their views as soon as possible in the new municipal year.
ACTION: Interim Strategic Director of Children’s Services