Agenda item

Report of the Head of Education & Learning (CS/21/10), attached.


The Committee received the Report of the Head of Education & Learning (CS/21/10) which provided an update on current SEND projects and SEND

High Needs Block funding as well as the new SEND Scorecard.  The Report outlined key projects including the SEND Transformation Programme, the Babcock In-Housing Project, the SEND Local Offer Website, the Funding for Special Education Needs through the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) High Needs Block, the Timeliness of EHCPs and issues raised through the complaint processes.


Members raised the following discussion points and questions with Officers in response to the report:


·       Timeliness of EHCPs – Members questioned what communication or signposting families were given where their EHCP was delayed in order to find further help and support, and the timescales for the Service to improve the number of Plans which did not meet the Statutory 20 week deadline.  The Head of Education and Learning advised that the EHCP process was part of a graduated response that started with SEN support from schools through to LA provision.  Families would have been working with schools and other providers such as an Educational Psychologist (EP) – to start the formal assessment process which had very tight timelines to deliver within 20weeks.  This included receiving all advice from partners in Health and Care within 6 weeks of the SEN 0-25 Team receiving the request for assessment, which had been significantly impacted by the Pandemic.  There was a Statutory requirement to have an EP input on every single assessment, however the timeliness of their reports had been the most affected during the past 18 months, and the national lockdowns had impacted on all health assessments coming through on time. During the Pandemic, there had been limited access to children when they were not at school to be able to carry out assessments, as well as the isolation of staff had affected the timeliness of cases and caused a backlog of cases. The School holidays also caused further delays, as the SEN Team could not conduct assessments whilst schools were closed, however the 6-week deadline did include the holidays if an assessment was received on the last day of term.

ACTION – the Head of Education and Learning to circulate the SEND Action Plan to Members, once completed.  

·       SEND Team Workforce – Members raised questions following previous sign off from Cabinet to increase the numbers of staff within the 0-25 SEND Team, how these staff had been deployed, what impact this had made on workloads and whether a further staff survey had been conducted to monitor staff morale and wellbeing.  The Head of Service responded, stating there had been two successful bids for additional staff to reflect changes to the SEND code of practice and increase in the numbers of EHCP requests.  Six permanent staff were recruited in 2017 and funding was secured for an additional 12 Temporary staff on fixed term contracts for 18months – however it had been difficult to recruit appropriate people with experience to these posts.  There was now 8 months left of the fixed term contracts, and work was ongoing to put forward a further business case to move those to permanent positions as the number of requests for EHCPs had continued to increase and therefore those additional staff were still required within the team.  The SEND Transformation Programme aimed to bring together all resources from education, health and care to meet the needs of young people and families without the need for an EHCP or if a pupil had an EHCP, without the need for a special school.  The level of staffing for EPs had also failed to increase in line with the number of requests for assessments and there was a national shortage of EPs which was still affecting the timeliness of issuing EHCPs within 20 weeks. 

·       Complaints and the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) – Members questioned the reasons why some of the 65 complaints had been progressed and others were not, including whether some families had been unable to complain having been told they were out of time. Members were advised that the goal was for any complaint to be resolved at the earliest possible point, when first raised to the team and even before any formal complaint.  The SEN Team had seen an increase in the number of complaints this year where schools and providers had been closed due to lockdowns and this had resulted in a lack of communication to families. Where complaints were unable to be resolved with the SEN Team, this would progress to the Council’s customer complaints team to resolve. Where not resolved, parents had the right to raise their concerns with the LGO.   The LGO looked at all evidence from both the Council and parent as to whether there was any fault by the Council.  There had been a recent change to the complaints process from a 2 stage to one stage process which had resulted in more complaints sent to the LGO rather than resolved inhouse. It was noted there was a 12month timescale for parents to appeal (set nationally by the LGO and not the Council).

ACTION: The Head of Education and Learning to provide Members with analysis of complaints to understand the main causes and what the Service had learnt from these cases.  

·       OFSTED – Members were informed that a future Ofsted and CQC visit was expected eminently that would cover SEND and the progress made on the Written Statement of Action covering health, education and care.  The Council’s Written Statement of Action was available on the website (Devon's Written Statement of Action - Education and Families) outlining all actions and the impact of those actions – with a new version due in a fortnight.

ACTION: the Head of Education and Learning to inform Members and email an updated version of the Written Statement of Action when available.


Supporting documents: