Report of the Chief Officer for Childrens Services (CS/20/08) seeking approval to the SEN Business Case to ensure the sustainability of statutory SEND services during the Covid-19 recovery period and wider transformation programme, attached.
(Councillors Biederman, Connett, Dewhirst, Hannaford and Whitton attended remotely in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 and spoke to this item).
The Cabinet considered the Report of the Head of Education and Learning (CS/20/08) seeking approval to the SEN Business Case to ensure the sustainability of statutory SEND services during the Covid-19 recovery period and wider transformation programme. The Report had been 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 Report highlighted the background of SEND services including the Ofsted inspection of Devon’s SEND services in December 2018 and the Written Statement of Action (WSOA) which required improvement to four areas (including the timeliness and quality of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)). Also, in 2019, the Children’s Scrutiny Committee set up a task and finish group to examine (among other things) the impact for staff of the increase in the rise of EHCP plans. An outcome of this review was a level of concern for staff wellbeing who were facing increasingly complex and difficult cases combined with sickness rates placing additional demand on staff. Six staff were subsequently recruited to the SEN team and levels of sickness reduced.
Pressure within the system had continued and whilst performance had improved, the well-being of staff continued to be a major concern. Recent staff consultations revealed staff working many unpaid hours overtime each week and the impact of this on personal lives and mental health and wellbeing.
There was still a significant and continued growth in the number of requests for assessment for EHC Plans, the graph (new EHCPs issued in Calendar Year by Age (Jan 2020 SEN2) highlighted the trend. This in turn also increased the number of plans to be maintained. A number of other pressures were outlined in the Report and a list of other statutory work was at Appendix A of the Report.
The level of staffing within the SEN 0- 25 had not kept pace with the continued demand and staffing needs. This had therefore been assessed and demonstrated the need for 13.2 additional staff.
The total staffing cost would be £817,313 and the spreadsheet at Appendix B showed how the costs had been calculated and the split over 2 financial years. Additional costs for IT equipment and licences were also highlighted in Appendix B.
The Cabinet heard that by not investing meant the Council would not fully meet the SEND statutory duties and statutory timeframes would not be maintained.
The matter having been debated and the options and/or alternatives and other relevant factors (e.g. sustainability, risk management and legal considerations) set out in the Head of Service’s Report and/or referred to above having been considered:
it was MOVED by Councillor McInnes, SECONDED by Councillor Hart, and
RESOLVEDthat the recruitment of 13.2 additional staff, for a period of 18 months to ensure sustainability of statutory SEND services during the Covid-19 recovery period and whilst a wider transformation programme is implemented be approved and the case for increased staffing in the SEN 0-25 team is based on work undertaken by HR, in partnership with Education and Learning.