This report advises the Committee on the outcome of the Local Area Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) inspection undertaken by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) from 4 - 8 December 2017.
This item was not finalised in time for despatch with the main agenda. The Chairman of the Committee is of the opinion that it should be considered at this meeting as a matter of urgency as permitted under section 100B of the Local Government Act 1972 to enable the Committee’s comments to be submitted to the Cabinet before it makes any decisions on this matter on 10 April 2018.
The Committee received a report which set out the outcome of the joint local area Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) inspection undertaken by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) from 4 to 8 December 2017.
The Director of Children and Adults Services introduced Mary Mason, Designated Nurse for Looked After Children (LAC) and Designated Clinical Officer (DCO), Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Nikki Teesdale Deputy Chief Nurse, Medway CCG. Ms Mason and Ms Teesdale had been invited as representatives of Medway CCG as the Local Authority and CCG were required to submit a joint Written Statement of Action to the Department for Education (DfE) in response to the outcomes of the inspection.
Members raised a number of points and questions including:
· Monitoring of the Written Statement of Action by the Department for Education (DfE) – In response to a question concerning actions that the Department for Education (DfE) might take following an unsatisfactory outcome after the 12 month monitoring period, the Head of Integrated 0-25 Disability Services advised the Committee that the DfE could extend the monitoring period or trigger a second inspection.
· Submission of the Written Statement of Action – The Director of Children and Adults Services assured the Committee that he was confident that the Written Statement of Action would be submitted within the deadline of 70 working days.
· Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) - In response to a question concerning the conversion rate of statements to Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), the Head of Integrated 0-25 Disability Services confirmed that the Local Authority was on track to complete the necessary conversions by the deadline of 31 March 2018. She added that the DfE had set Local Authorities a target of 94% and that this percentage recognised that children with statements might move into the area without the knowledge of the Local Authority. In this instance the conversion period was 14 weeks.
Further to a question concerning whether all children with statements would be moved to an EHCP, the Head of Integrated 0-25 Disability Services confirmed that most children had received an EHCP. However, statements had been ceased and therefore no EHCP had been provided where children had opted not to stay in education post 16 and in cases where a child no longer needed the same level of support an EHCP would provide.
· Diagnosis of Special Educational Needs (SEN) and support – Members expressed concern over the barriers and time delays in diagnosing children and supporting children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). In response, the Head of Integrated 0-25 Disability Services advised Members that the joint inspection found that identification of SEN in young children was done well. With respect to timely diagnosis of SEN in children, the Designated Nurse for LAC and DCO, Medway NHS CCG, advised the Committee that she had worked with health care professionals and schools to explain the importance of health within EHCPs. She also noted that that she sits on the weekly SEN Panel that reviews applications for EHCPs, ensuring there is a focus on heath.
The Designated Nurse for LAC and DCO, Medway NHS CCG, outlined for the benefit of Members the challenges in diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD), Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) including difficulties in assessing children’s behaviour and the lack of FASD diagnosticians in the County. She explained that the CCG were working with the Medway Foundation Trust and Medway Community Health to develop a pathway across the agency to follow the NICE Guidelines to support early diagnosis. In addition, she outlined that commissioners were working with the FASD diagnostician to develop a diagnostic team in Medway and that work had been undertaken, jointly with the Local Authority, to train and support schools to challenge behaviours presented by young people and recognise when an application should be made for an EHCP.
With regards to support for children who owing to their level of need do not have an EHCP, the Head of Integrated 0-25 Disability Services explained to the Committee that there was a system of ‘top ups’ that schools were able to apply for to support these children. She added that this had enabled children to remain supported in mainstream school.
With reference to experience working within schools, a Member commented that accessing the support of healthcare professionals, including the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had been difficult. The Director of Children and Adults Services advised Members that the child health service and emotional health and wellbeing services had been recommissioned and he recognised the need to improve waiting times, the model and quality of service and that this was set out in the new specifications. He added that the inspectors identified that the new services should improve outcomes for young children and was confident improvements would be made.
Asked by a Member whether the remit of the Deputy Chief Nurse extends to nurseries, the Committee was advised that it would.
· Task Group – A Member commented that the joint working referred to within this debate between organisations to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND could form the basis of a future task group in-depth review if additional scrutiny of joint working was required.
a) noted the outcome of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Local Area Inspection; and
b) agreed that a regular update on the progress of the SEND Improvement Plan be presented to the Committee.