Medway Council and Medway CCG have consulted on a Joint Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) five year Strategy. This Strategy, which is attached at Appendix 4 to the report, sets out the Local Area’s vision, guiding principles and the key areas of development that will be the focus for Medway’s children and young people with SEND over the coming five years.
The Head of Integrated 0-25 Disability Services introduced the report, explaining that the strategy was a joint strategy between the Council and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and had been co-produced with young people, parents and carers. It had been developed following the SEND Local Area Inspection in December 2017 which had recommended the creation of a local area joint strategy.
A representative from the Medway Parent and Carer Forum explained that the local authority and CCG had worked well with parents and carers to produce the strategy which was very much welcomed by young people with SEND and their families.
Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:
· Designated Schools Grant (DSG) deficit – in response to a question about the recovery plan that had been submitted in relation to the Council’s DSG deficit, officers undertook to circulate the plan to Members. They explained that demand in Medway was growing and was growing at a faster rate than some other local authorities and this was causing concern that it would be difficult to completely close the deficit gap. However, additional Government funding had been announced that would assist with reducing the deficit. It was also explained that the Department for Education (DfE) had delayed their feedback on the recovery plan submission until firm announcements of Medway’s allocation of the additional Government funding were made.
· Voice of Young People – in response to a question about how involved young people had been in the development of the strategy, officers confirmed that young people had been greatly involved. It was explained that there were two consultation groups of young people with SEND, one for 13-18 year olds and another for over 18 year olds and officers undertook to provide a breakdown of how they had commented on and input into the strategy. It was added that Healthwatch Medway were setting up a specific group of young people to ensure the voice of young people was heard and officers welcomed this and the opportunity to join up with this group once it is established.
· Capacity to deliver – concern was raised about the local authority’s ability to deliver the aspirations of the strategy, particularly given the funding difficulties. Officers confirmed this was a partnership strategy which would be implemented across partnerships.
· Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information and Advice Support Service (SENDIAS) – a question was raised about the role of SENDIAS and how well families were informed of the service. Officers confirmed that the current SENDIAS contract was coming to an end and re-tendering would include the requirement for more rigorous marketing and re-branding.
· Written Statement of Action – in response to a question about where Medway was in relation to its Written Statement of Action following the SEND inspection in December 2017, officers confirmed that the monitoring of progress was now coming to an end and a re-inspection was anticipated by the end of 2019. It was added that updates on the inspection and progress with SEND would also include updates on the progress made against the Strategy’s action plan.
· Rivermead School– a question was asked about the commissioning of places at the specialist provision at Rivermead School for children with serious emotional and mental health issues, called Enhanced Triple R. Officers confirmed that they had met with the school recently and had agreed the number of places to be commissioned and the funding for these places.
· Transition – in response to concerns raised about transitional arrangements for young people, officers confirmed this was an area of focus by the Department for Education and NHS England and officers were working to start transitional conversations with young people when they were in Year 9. Reference was also made to supported internships which were proving successful in getting young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities into employment.
The Committee recommended the draft Strategy, as set out at Appendix 1 to the report, to the Cabinet for approval.