Improving SEND services in Plymouth
A priority action plan is being produced to address concerns raised in a recent Local Area Inspection undertaken jointly by the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted in June 2023. The inspection found provision and outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in Plymouth needs to rapidly improve.
Education, social care and health partners are working together to make changes and produce a priority action plan by the end of September. The plan will set out how the local area partnership, which includes Plymouth City Council, school and college leaders, local NHS organisations and other key partners, will work together to address the areas that need improvement.
Areas identified as needing improvement include the early identification of young children's needs and transitional planning in social care. The report also highlights that in some schools, a delayed identification of children's needs mean they do not receive the support they need which can result in poor attendance or increased likelihood of exclusion.
A number of immediate actions have already been carried out since the inspection. This has included ensuring social care teams have thorough and robust oversight of the small number of children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) living in residential accommodation outside of Plymouth. A review of children and young people who receive respite care and short breaks is also underway, to ensure families are being fully supported.
The report highlights that 'leaders across the partnership understand the issues and share a commitment to improve the way they work together'. Other areas that Ofsted and CQC identified where the partnership is effective include:
- Strengthening the early support for young children with language and communication difficulties
- Providing a range of services to meet the social and emotional needs of children and young people with SEND
- Reducing the number of young people with SEND who are not in employment, education or training
- Effectively supporting children and young people with autism spectrum disorder or those with a learning disability to avoid hospital admission at times of crises
Councillor Sally Cresswell, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Apprenticeships, said: "It is clear that our children, young people and their families have not all been receiving the high quality services and support that they need and deserve.
"As the new Cabinet Member in a new administration, and as a former special educational needs coordinator myself, it is now my number one priority to ensure that there is swift action to drive the urgent improvements that are needed.
"I know Council staff are committed to making the changes identified in the report, which are vital to improving the lives of these children.
"We have seen increasing demand for SEND services locally which has meant additional pressure on all the organisations involved in the local area partnership. Due to these pressures we had already identified necessary improvement work and will work together at pace to address this as well as the priorities highlighted in the inspection.
"Making sure that all children and young people in Plymouth are supported to grow up well, to achieve and succeed is of utmost importance and our children with SEND will be at the heart of our refreshed action plan."
A stakeholder event will be held in mid-September, involving a large range of organisations that work with children with SEND in Plymouth, to enable partners to produce the action plan together.
On behalf of the NHS organisations responsible for commissioning and providing health care services - NHS Devon Integrated Care Board, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and Livewell Southwest - Naomi Chapman, Devon's chief nurse, said: "We are sorry that children with special educational needs and/or disabilities and their families in Plymouth are not receiving the standard of care they need. We accept the outcomes in the report and are already working closely with Plymouth City Council and partners to make improvements as quickly as possible. Providing personalised and coordinated services to children and young people is one of our ambitions as a system. We want to reassure children and their families that our staff continue to work very hard to provide the best support possible."
The full report is available to view on the Ofsted website.
Plymouth's Local Offer is organised into four main categories covering the following age ranges:
- Early years (0 to 5 years old)
- Primary (5 to 11 years old)
- Secondary (11 to 18 years old)
- Preparing for adulthood
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