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A special education needs and disability (SEND) strategy is expected to be in place in Central Bedfordshire early next year, a meeting heard (30 July 2021).

Updating a joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA) for the area is part of the procedure.

Central Bedfordshire Council and the BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group are responding to an Ofsted and Care Quality Commission critical report in November 2019, which found “significant areas of weakness in the local practice“.

The JSNA was presented to the council’s health and wellbeing board by local authority interim commissioner Andy Kimber, who described it as “a continuous process of strategic assessment and planning“.

He told the board: “The purpose of the JSNA is to improve the health and wellbeing of the local community and to reduce inequalities for all ages.

A JSNA has a typical lifespan of five to six years,” he explained. “That’s flexible. After today it becomes a live document.

We’re looking at the whole cohort of children and young adults locally with SEND needs.

The outputs in the form of evidence and the analysis of needs and agreed priorities will be used to determine what actions local authorities, the NHS and other partners need to take to meet health and social care needs, and to deliver these services effectively and in the most economic way.

“We want to support our SNAP (special needs action plan) parent carer forum, which has helped us get this right.”

There are more than 6,000 children with SEND in Central Bedfordshire, which equates to one in seven of the school population, he said.

An easy read version of this JSNA capturing the headlines allows our SEND audience to access key parts of this document.

A SEND strategy will follow this based on the findings of the JSNA.”

Conservative Dunstable Central councillor Carole Hegley said: “I welcome the depth of information. It’s very thorough.

There are a lot of issues highlighted. Who holds the accountability for those 30 focus areas?

Director of children’s services Sue Harrison replied: “We’ve a SEND partnership board which has about 30 people on it, including the commissioners and the providers at the highest level.

There are head teachers on there now and the parent carer forum SNAP. It’s a comprehensive team. We’re committed to continuing with that board.

Each one of us will be responsible for our part of the action plan and accountable. Those 30 actions are the key ones we need to ensure we’re delivering on.

This is a great, groundbreaking piece of work. The JSNA is the basis for all our commissioning going forward and will be refreshed regularly when any new or different needs come to light.

It’s really important we’re in agreement with our parents and young people around those priorities.

The written statement of action (WSOA) was intended to be delivered within 12 to 18 months,” she added.

This will be an on-going document, as the work is never finished, so the strategy we produce in early 2022 will be continually reviewed.

We’ve some catch-up to do. We’re not satisfied with getting that WSOA lifted and just being okay. We want to be great.

We’re pleased with the JSNA because it gives us a brilliant starting point for that breadth of improvement to a place where we’re delivering great services.

Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark, who’s the executive member for families, education and children, said: “The JSNA needed updating.

That’s one of the requirements of our WSOA. We can’t underestimate the importance of this in that so many other actions hang off it.”