It can be no coincidence that the two reports were published within a week of each other and this briefing consequently considers them alongside each other... Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission inspect how well local areas fulfil their 'Special Educational Needs and Disability code of practice' duties. The Care Quality Commission and Ofsted have published a summary report of their main findings from the first 30 local area SEND inspections. ‘Local Area SEND Inspections - One Year On’ is a summary report of the main findings from the first 30 local area SEND inspections by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.
The content seems to indicate that, broadly, there is much more work still to be done across the 3 main aspects of the inspection framework relating to children and young people with SEND, namely: identifying SEND; meeting needs; and improving outcomes.
These themes are detailed in the supplementary In Control Briefing, Main Findings - OFSTED and CQC ‘Local area SEND inspections: one year on’ October 2017.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman similarly offers insights about where progress needs to be made: “We issued a report in March 2014, highlighting the shortcomings which needed to be addressed with the new EHCP system. “Regrettably, our first 100 investigations show this has not happened. “The system is not failing universally. But for those people who come to us, we are finding significant problems – sometimes suffering long delays in getting the right support and children ultimately failing to reach their potential.” All children with existing Statements of SEN should be transferred to the new plans by April 2018.
But according to government statistics, by January this year just under a third of those pupils 2 with Statements of SEN in place 12 months earlier were transferred to EHC plans. In addition, many plans are not being completed on time, with less than 60% of new EHC plans issued within the 20-week timescale in 2016.
While the Ombudsman has seen a relatively small number of complaints so far, investigators have upheld nearly 80% of those it has received. This is far more than the Ombudsman’s average of 53%. Complaints and enquiries are also increasing, having doubled in the past two years. Because a large number of Statements are still to be transferred – and it can take around nine months for someone to go through the council’s complaints process before approaching the Ombudsman – it believes the number of complaints and enquiries it receives will continue to rise.
Issued on 23 October 2017, the Ombudsman’s report highlights some of the common issues investigators have found in their first 100 cases. One of the overriding features is significant delay in the process. Other issues include: failing to involve parents and young people properly in the decision-making process, not gathering sufficient evidence to inform decisions, and a lack of proper forward planning when young people move between key educational stages. The report gives local authorities best practice guidance to help councils get things right. It also offers councillors and scrutiny chairs questions they can ask of their own authorities to ensure they offer children and young people with Special Educational Needs the best possible start. The advice is strong on improving processes and the competence of staff to implement those processes. Throughout the report, however, there is a continuous thread of giving importance to the quality of engagement with children and their families.
The two reports clearly identify that there is much to do. However, addressing the key issues is consistent with the shared aspirations of In Control and member authorities and agencies. The findings of the report can inform In Control’s overall programme and enable individual members to identify how best to use their membership support.