Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CS/19/20) on approval to secure accelerated improvements as identified in the December 2018 Area SEND Inspection by Ofsted and CQC and May 2019 Focused Visit by Ofsted, attached.
(Councillors Biederman, Connett, Dewhirst, Whitton attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item).
The Cabinet considered the Report of the Chief Officer for Children’s Services (CS/19/20) asking for approval to secure accelerated improvements as identified in the December 2018 Area SEND Inspection by Ofsted and CQC and May 2019 Focused Visit by Ofsted. The Report was circulated prior to the meeting in accordance with regulation 7(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.
The Cabinet noted that in 2014, the Government introduced much needed reforms to arrangements to meet the needs of children with SEND. However, funding for those reforms did not fully match the increased demand and expectation and, as a consequence, the system, both nationally and locally, experienced sustained pressure. In 2016, Ofsted commenced a programme of SEND inspections, with Devon’s SEND services being inspected in December 2019 and a WSoA issued (like many other Local Authorities) (https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50054047). Devon would be re-inspected in about 18 months time with an expectation that the four key areas identified for accelerated improvement would be fully resolved. The new framework for inspection (since 2018) raised the expectations bar in relation to the quality of supervision and the reliability of practice audit as a tool of quality assurance and these were areas requiring further development in the recent Ofsted Focused Visit.
The Report outlined the identified four areas where accelerated progress needed to be made. This related to Strategic plans and the local area’s SEND arrangements not embedded or widely understood by stakeholders, concerns about communication with key stakeholders, (particularly parents and families), the time taken to issue Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP’s) and the variable quality of the plans and weaknesses in the identification, assessment, diagnosis and support of those children and young people with autism spectrum disorder.
The Children’s Scrutiny Task Group Report ‘Behind the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)’ recommended investment in the 0-25 team to match that found in other Local Authorities to ensure staff caseloads were reasonable.
The investment proposals set out in the Report it was felt would address the identified weaknesses in the WSoA and identified by the Task Group.
· Strengthened Engagement Function (WSoA 1 & 2) – to bring together capacity across Children’s Services. Investment was sought for 3.2 FTE and then procure a portal which enabled parents and professionals to access, monitor and contribute to the child’s EHCP, in real time, on line.
· EHCP Timeliness and Quality (WSoA 2 & 3) – Investment was being sought for six staff, 1.5 FTE in each area whose roles straddled 0-25 and Inclusion to ensure timely and effective intervention for children and young people with autistic spectrum conditions. Also, a designated social care officer to match the designated clinical officer to ensure social care contributions to EHCP were timely and of the right quality.
· Preparation for Adulthood (PfA) – currently timely, planned and proactive PfA and transition to adult care and health services was hindered by capacity. A team of four social workers or equivalent supported by a Team Managerwould ensure effective and timely intervention.
· Transformational change, achieving integration – there was a desire to undertake a project to redesign, with parents, children, young people and disabled adults, the SEND system to achieve a fully integrated (Health, Education, and Social Care) 0 to 25 system. A secondment would be offered to develop and implement robust system redesign.
· Strengthening Children’s Social Care - a short-term booster investment was required to accelerate the full embedding of Eclipse (the case management system in Children’s Social Care), therefore proposal for four Quality Assurance Manager posts (up to nine months) to support the enhanced activity already being implemented by the service.
The Cabinet noted that this long-term investment meant that, over time, would lead to reduced activity and costs at the higher tariff. The financial considerations of the proposals were outlined at section 3 of the Report which highlighted additional staffing of 14.2 full time equivalent employees (ongoing cost of just over £640,000) and additional staffing of 8.5 full time equivalent employees on a short-term basis costing £378,000 in 2019/20 and £58,000 in 2020/21 which would fall to the Council’s General Fund. It was felt that the additional investment sought, coupled with that by the CCG and that for Children’s Social Care, would ensure the Council was better able to meet the needs of children and families and that the re-inspection would not result in Government intervention in Devon.
The investment would have a positive equalities impact as many of the children and young people with SEND and/or involved with Children’s Social Care would meet at least one of the protected characteristics in the Equalities Act.
The matter having been debated and the options and/or alternatives and other relevant factors (e.g. financial, sustainability (including carbon impact), risk management, equality and legal considerations and Public Health impact) set out in the Chief Officer’s Report and/or referred to above having been considered:
it was MOVED by Councillor McInnes, SECONDED by Councillor Hart, and
RESOLVED that in order to secure the accelerated improvements identified in the December 2018 Area SEND Inspection by Ofsted and CQC and May 2019 Focused Visit by Ofsted:
(a) the investment for 14.2 full time equivalent (FTE) employees at an ongoing cost of just over £640,000 per annum be approved; and
(b) the one-off investment for 8.5 full time equivalent employees for a short-term period at a cost of £378,000 in 2019/20 and £58,000 in 2020/21 also be agreed.