Council and health chiefs are in talks with parent groups to produce an urgent action plan after a damning inspection report slammed the poor quality of services for children with special educational needs across Worcestershire.
The action plan has to be ready by mid August and must demonstrate a clear plan for improvement to the ailing services operated by Worcestershire County Council and the county’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Care Quality Commission inspectors found a catalogue of serious issues around the delivery of services for vulnerable youngsters when they visited the county in March.
They ordered Worcestershire County Council and their health partners to work together to produce an action plan that shows how they are going to bring about improvement.
Among the damning findings were:
- a lack of strategic leadership by the county’s health organisations (the three Clinical Commissioning Groups, who fund health services) to ensure national reforms around education for special needs pupils are implemented
- poor quality of the current action plans in place
- wide variation in quality of skills and commitment to support disabled and special needs pupils in mainstream schools
- lack of suitable specialist provision for children and young people
- fragile relationships with parents and carers, and lack of meaningful engagement with them
- poor quality of personal education plans for children with special needs
- safeguarding concerns around the number of children with special needs who are taken ‘off roll’ at schools and are missing education, or who are on long term part-time timetables
- lack of tracking to check progress of pupils with special educational needs in special schools, post-16 colleges, youth offenders and those who are not in education or training
- high number of pupils with special needs and disabilities who have been permanently excluded from schools
- the low academic outcomes, behaviour and attendance of children and young people with special needs and disabilities
A draft action plan has been produced and shared with the county’s Special Educational Needs improvement board, which includes representatives from the CCGs, Worcestershire Health & Care Trust, Families in Partnership, special schools, schools provider Babcock, the county’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities information and support services, Our Way Advocacy and Youth Justice.
In a report to the county’s Cabinet, meeting on Thursday, members are asked to delegate responsibility for completing and submitting the action plan to Councillor Marcus Hart, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills.
In their letter to the council, the CQC said that provision of services for children with special educational needs had suffered a recent “lack of strategic direction” and responsible bodies were now playing catch-up to implement reforms.
They criticised the “weak” oversight of the services by commissioners, and a failure to give priority to affected children and services for them.
They also highlighted the “frustration” of parents over the poor level of consultation and engagement, who complained they too often had to fight for their child’s needs to be addressed.
The number of individual plans for children which were completed within statutory timeframes was too low, leaving children and families in limbo.
What parents have said about the provision of SEND services in Worcestershire:
“There is no clear route for support – you just have to keep on and on to get the right support for your child. It’s exhausting.”
“My child and the whole family are so damaged from all the delays and difficulties in getting what we need.”
Councillor Hart, following the release of the CQC findings, said: “We are disappointed by the findings but we accept them and we are determined to improve the local area offer for children and their parents and carers. Working with our health partners and schools we have made huge strides forward in recent months but there is much more still to do.”
Simon Trickett, accountable officer of Worcestershire’s Clinical Commissioning Groups, added: “We accept the findings of the report and agree the critical importance of working with others to provide the joined-up services that children and young people deserve. We acknowledge that more needs to be done and remain committed to working with our partners to ensure that the special health needs of children and young people are more adequately met in the future.”