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Reform of special educational needs service will be "a long haul"

A report last year criticised the service provided to children with special educational needs and disabilities.
A report last year criticised the service provided to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The service being provided to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) across Lancashire is currently operating on “amber”.

The service being provided to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) across Lancashire is currently operating on “amber”.

That is the assessment of one of the council officers working to reform the service, following a damning OFSTED and Care Quality Commission report earlier this year.

Sian Rees, Improvement Partner at Lancashire County Council, told a meeting of the Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board that “some things are moving on and some are a little bit stuck”.

“My overall impression is that we’re on amber at the moment,” she said.

The SEND service in the county involves more than two dozen organisations, including local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and hospital trusts. It was criticised by regulators for causing “bewilderment” amongst families about how decisions were being made about their children.

A partnership board was set up in the wake of the report, but Sian Rees said regulators are “increasingly expecting us to demonstrate impact beyond putting infrastructure in place”.

A monitoring visit by OFSTED inspectors will take place next week.

The county is currently implementing an action plan, which aims to tackle five areas identified as the major weaknesses in the service - access to provision, identifying need, improving outcomes, strategy and engagement.

A series of drop-in sessions called ‘Your Child, Your Voice’ has been taking place across the county.

The committee heard feedback from parents had so far been positive, but “that doesn’t mean to say issues are sorted”, Sian Rees told members.

“Things that weren’t there before are now being put in place for the long term, “ she added.

The partnership board’s action plan pledges to:

***To ensure that parents and carers are fully engaged in decision making.

***To ensure that all children in Lancashire have equal access to provision regardless of location.

***To develop an effective strategy to improve the outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

John Readman, chair of the partnership board, praised the “huge galvanising of effort across the county”, but warned the process would be "a long haul".

Sian Rees also championed the investment of “physical resources or funding” made by various organisations to turn the service around.