A £130,000 audit of children’s care plans across Central Bedfordshire revealed more than half “require improvement”, while 80 were judged “inadequate”.
A review of education health and care plans (EHCPs) was commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council as part of its improvement programme, after a critical Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) report in November 2019.
Their findings called for a written statement of action from the local authority and Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which was submitted last September.
Of 1,797 EHCPs checked by the audit, 1,039 or 58 per cent were categorised as requiring improvement and 80 were deemed inadequate. Just over a third were rated good, and 14 outstanding.
EHCPs set out the education, health and care support to be provided to a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) child or young person aged 0-25 years, according to a report to CBC’s children’s services overview and scrutiny committee.
“A plan is drawn up by the local authority after an EHC needs assessment of the child, in consultation with relevant partner agencies, parents and the young person themselves,” said the report.
Since the inspection, the SEND partnership has been working to address the six areas of concern that were raised.
These included area leaders in education, health and care lacking a shared understanding of the outcomes they want for SEND children and young people, while there was insufficient oversight of the quality of new EHCPs.
A first monitoring visit took place in December and the next one is due on Wednesday (Mar 10th).
“A high number of parents had sought a SEND tribunal over their concerns about EHCPs,” according to Independent Aspley and Woburn councillor John Baker.
“The audit report is now out and it’s clear there’s something badly wrong with how CBC conducts these EHCPs,” he said in a social media post.
This report acknowledges a series of failings, such as:
- The specific actions the council is supposed to take for the child is “very rarely quantified and specified”, with insufficient guidance around its frequency of delivery
- Not regularly enough or effective updating of plans, via the annual review process, which become outdated, with no current levels of need, relevant outcomes, or a preparation for adulthood focus for those in year nine
“CBC has yet to say whether these poor quality EHCPs will be reviewed,” added councillor Baker.
“Many of the staff I have spoken to in the department have worked long hours, but it’s clear the training hasn’t been there.
“Management and senior councillors must finally carry the can for these repeated failures.”
Independent watchdog the special needs action panel (SNAP), which is part-funded by CBC, has put together its own review of the audit.
SNAP was asked for and gave CBC plenty of advice on how to run the review, but felt it was ignored.
“The council report itself was really basic and it took ten minutes to read,” it claimed.
“CBC’s review doesn’t even show whether the EHCPs hindered or helped the children, or whether they recognised all of their needs.
“CBC will need to create a further report now to explain what went wrong.
“Parents were told they could opt out of the process, but CBC never allowed them to do so.”
SNAP warned the review panel its focus was too narrow last August.
The review is due to be considered by the scrutiny committee on Tuesday (9 March 2021).