The multi-agency support being given to children and young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) in Southend-on-Sea, is improving, but has inconsistencies, according to the latest report.
A joint area inspection carried out by OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission in March 2023 was the fourth inspection nationally to be carried out under a new framework, which sees reports given one of three possible inspection outcomes. The SEND partnership obtained the middle outcome on the scale, with the report recognising the hard work that has taken place to improve services, but saying there is still more work to be done
The SEND partnership is made up of services run by Southend-on-Sea City Council, MSE Integrated Care Services, Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT), schools, education partners, parent carer forums and other organisations.
Partnership leaders have welcomed the findings of the report and pledged to build on the many positive outcomes already being achieved for young people with SEND and their families and tackle the identified areas for improvement.
The report published today (Friday 9 June) says that; “There is better multi-agency working in Southend with a stronger focus on supporting children and young people and families at the right time as a result of improved oversight and review of individual need.”
But also, that: “the local area partnership’s arrangements lead to inconsistent experience and outcomes for children and young people with SEND.”
Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the council with a responsibility for SEND, said; “The report didn’t contain any surprises, it outlines areas where the service is doing well and other areas where improvements still need to be made. It is one of the reasons as the new cabinet we felt SEND needed a dedicated portfolio holder, as the issue is important to many in our community.
“It is clear from the report that the experiences of children and their families is variable and this needs to improve. All organisations and professionals agree that long wait times are unacceptable, as families have the additional stress of coping without support while their needs are assessed.
“However, I am glad to see that the report highlighted the excellent collaborative work that has happened, and that the voice of the child is firmly at the centre of all the work taking place within SEND services. It seems we are on the right path, but with some work still to do.”
Frances Bolger, Chief Nurse, Mid and South Essex Integrated Care Board, said: “We welcome the findings from the recent inspection. Our ambition is to build on the progress already made to further improve services for children, young people, and their families to ensure a more consistent, positive experience of the SEND system. This report demonstrates we are on the journey to achieving this ambition. We recognise that a collaborative approach is essential for getting it right and the report recognises the excellent work that has occurred around this area.”
Southend SEND Independent Forum (SSIF) were highlighted in the report for their collaborative approach to improving services and parent and carer feedback. A spokesperson said: “The inspectors found that the experiences of children and young people with SEND in Southend-on-Sea can be very varied. This report reflects the experiences and feedback we have received from our families.
“We acknowledge that the Local Authority and health services have implemented changes and improvements to the SEND systems, for example the recent redevelopments at the Lighthouse Child Development Centre, however too often our children’s and young people’s needs are not met in a timely manner.
“We will continue to represent SEND families voices in Southend, to ensure that the necessary changes are implemented to best meet the needs of our children and young people.”
What the partnership is doing well:
- Consultation with families and making sure the voice of the child and young people is always included in assessments, plans and reports
- There is better oversight between all teams which has improved multi-agency working, to make sure children, young people and their families get the right support at the right time
- This includes working well with the independently appointed parent carer forum Southend SEND Independent Forum (SSIF)
- Access to help early on is making sure families can meet the needs of their children, with support from services such as the Special Education Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)
- There has been better partnership working between education, social care, and health services, giving all students in all provisions better access to opportunities
- Health reviews and referrals are timely and improving, providing a more individualised approach to meeting a child or young person’ needs
- Strong partnership working between education, social care and police means safeguarding risks and young people missing education is reduced
- There are more families taking advantage of short breaks
Areas for improvement;
- The pace of improvements is too slow and trust with parents and carers has been undermined by weaknesses in service delivery
- Experiences are variable, with some families experiencing long wait periods for appointments with specialist services or for support or equipment
- While EHC assessments are timely, reviews are not, and the plans are not ambitious enough and do not reflect the multi-agency work that takes place to support a child or young person
- The transition from children’s services to adults needs to start sooner, and improvements to the post 16 service need to be made, to provide better support for young people
- Quality assurance information is not being used to evaluate the effectiveness of leader’s actions and improve practice
- Speech and language therapists have limited capacity in mainstream schools
- There are a lack of clubs and activities during the holidays for children and young people with SEND
- Despite improvements to communication, parents, carers, and professionals can get confused about accessing services, leading to frustration and delays