Inspectors demand action after critical SEND inspection Image By alexlmx AdobeStock_106157843

Families “do not know where to go to get the help they need”

Education and health leaders in Central Bedfordshire have been instructed to provide a Written Statement of Action following a critical inspection into Special Education Needs provision in the area.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) conducted a joint inspection in November to judge the area’s effectiveness in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. The report was made public today (24 February 2020) in a letter to Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

The inspection was carried out between 18 November and 22 November 2019. Inspectors spoke with children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), parents and carers, local authority officers and National Health Service (NHS) officers.

They also visited a range of providers and spoke to leaders, staff and governors about how they are implementing the SEND reforms.

Leaders “are not meeting their duties”

The report included a list of findings:

  • Despite the reforms being given higher priority in the area’s planning since 2018, leaders are not meeting their duties in the Children and Families Act 2014 for children and young people with SEND
  • Leaders lack essential strategic information about what children, young people and their families want and need
  • Staffing changes mean that professionals and families struggle to get answers to their questions and/or receive contradictory information
  • Co-production with children, young people and their families is not well developed, particularly in the creation of Education, health and care (EHC) plans and in the undertaking of annual reviews
  • Joint commissioning is still some way off meeting the needs of children, young people and their families
  • Too often, families do not know where to go to get the help they need and feel that they cannot get help until they reach crisis point

The report acknowledged that there are many experienced, passionate and committed professionals across health, the local authority, schools and social care, who work creatively to try to support families to overcome some of the entrenched problems in the area. It added that this work is beginning to reduce waiting times among many services.

However, it said that too many families feel that they are bounced around services with little meaningful help.

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesperson said:

“Today an official letter has been published on the Ofsted website regarding a joint Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspection that was conducted in Central Bedfordshire, looking at the effectiveness of us and the NHS in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms of the Children and Families Act.

“Although there are areas of the inspection which acknowledge the positive progress that has been made, the letter also makes clear that there are still significant weaknesses in our area’s practice which we must address in a written statement of action.

“Whilst these conclusions are clearly disappointing, we have already been working hard to improve performance over the past eighteen months and have identified our priority improvement areas, which Ofsted have agreed with us. Our existing action plan will be recalibrated to ensure that the issues identified by the inspectors are addressed and resolved.

“It is clear that we have much to learn from this inspection, with clear pointers on the strengths we must build on, as well as the areas for development.

“We aim to continue our transformation of SEND services. The hard work of our staff was recognised by inspectors who acknowledged that ‘there are many experienced, passionate and committed professionals across health, the local authority, schools and social care,’ and this puts us in a strong position to improve all our services in order to make a difference to the lives of our most vulnerable children and families.”

[Added 17:45 25/2/20]

A spokesperson for Beds CCG said:

“Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) would like to thank all those who contributed to the recent Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection of the SEND (special educational needs and/or disability) services for children in Central Bedfordshire. The report, which highlighted areas of effectiveness and good practice, also identified areas where more work needs to be done to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people.

“Agencies have been working together over the past eighteen months and had identified priority improvement areas, which are in line with those highlighted in the inspector’s report. With our partners from the multi-agency SEND Delivery Board, we will produce a written statement of action, which will include an updated action plan reflecting the inspector.s findings. It is also important to acknowledge the recognition given by the inspectors to staff working in the current services, who highlighted that there are many experienced, passionate and committed professionals working across health, the local authority, schools and social care in Central Bedfordshire.

“We look forward to working with partners and local families to continue to develop services that provide children and young people with access to high quality SEND services.”

Download the full inspection letter here.