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Wirral SEND services 'broken' say Ofsted

December 31, 2021 12:45 PM
By George Morgan in Wirral Globe

Wallasey Town HallWIRRAL'S special needs support services are 'broken', with families feeling 'overlooked and ignored' when they ask for help, according to an Ofsted report.

The document, prepared after an inspection into Wirral's SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) support services by both Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors revealed huge problems which are pushing families to the limit emotionally, financially and physically.

In a joint response, Cllr Wendy Clements, chair of Wirral Council's children, young people and education committee and Simon Banks, chief officer of NHS Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said the report showed that "while considerable progress has been made in helping vulnerable young people, there is still a substantial way to go to support all children".

While Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Carubia, who has been a vocal campaigner on this issue, said the report showed "a litany of failure".

The most notable part of the document was the sheer impact problems with Wirral's SEND services have on parents, carers and families.

One part of the report read: "Too many parents and carers told inspectors that 'the system is broken' in Wirral."

The document added: "Too often in the past, leaders have not delivered on their promises."

While it went on to state: "Often, families are pushed to the limits, emotionally, financially and physically. They feel overlooked and ignored as well as blamed for asking for the help that their children need."

There were some positive comments in the report, reflecting good work that is going on in Wirral.

One part of the report stated: "Parents and carers sing the praises of some teams, frontline workers and managers.

"Parents and carers are keen to celebrate the positive difference that these professionals make to the lived experience of children, young people and their families day-to-day.

"It is clear that some schools, teams and individuals 'go above and beyond' to provide a first-rate service."

But overall, the conclusions of the report revealed deep concerns about Wirral's SEND services.

The document declared that Wirral Council and NHS Wirral CCG must produce a Written Statement of Action to Ofsted explaining how it will tackle areas of "significant weakness".

These areas include the high level of parental dissatisfaction with services, poor communication with parents and carers across the area and the lack of effective strategic oversight to ensure effectiveness of plans and provision to hold leaders, managers and partners to account.

One particular area of concern was over EHC (education, health and care) plans.

These plans are produced for children who need more support than is available through SEND support services and are meant to identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs.

On these, the report said: "The quality of EHC plans in Wirral is not good enough.

"The lack of inclusion of parents' and children's and young people's contributions, poorly written plans and unsuitable objectives means that the plans do not reflect the child or young person and their needs.

"The processes for considering requests for EHC assessments and agreeing to issue plans lack rigour.

"There is no representation from health professionals on the decision-making panels. There is also no effective quality assurance to check that EHC plans are fit for purpose."

A further worrying section of the document read: "Objectives set in EHC plans are often generic and are not well matched to the individual children and young people.

"This means that objectives do not help to raise expectations for what these children and young people could achieve."

Cllr Carubia, who represents Eastham, said: "It is a litany of failure that I have been arguing about for a number of years.

"The only gratifying statement is that the issues and complaints that parents of children with SEND have had to endure has been acknowledged and makes for difficult reading."

He added: "Parents tell me that the money spent fighting them in the courts, with barristers on retention, if spent on getting it right for the children at an early stage, would save thousands in future costs.

"There has been massive changes in children's services in the last three years following the completion of the Ofsted report on children's services, unfortunately the SEND provision seemed to have sat outside that transformation.

"The attention has at last been put on the SEND provision."

A joint statement by Cllr Wendy Clements and Simon Banks, said: "Recently Wirral's children's services came out of government intervention with positive feedback received about the changes already put in place and the 'clear vision for delivering high quality services'.

"With the protection and welfare of children at the forefront of efforts across the whole borough, this latest inspection report of SEND services shows that while considerable progress has been made in helping vulnerable young people, there is still a substantial way to go to support all children.

"This inspection looked at the entire Special Educational Needs and Disabilities provision across Wirral, in particular how the relevant organisations in our area have responded to the reforms outlined in the 2014 Children and Families Act."

The statement continued: "There are no quick fixes and it will take some time yet to get this right, but what is required is to ensure that those children, young people and adults with special educational needs, and their parents and carers have their voices embedded in how we deliver the help and support they rely on.

"We are committed to continuing to improve this.

"We are now looking to a future in which our children and young adults with SEND are happy, getting the services they need and making good educational progress to allow them to achieve their aspirations and goals.

"It is crucial that children in Wirral and their families are valued, can see that they are valued, and that this is reflected in them shaping and receiving the help and care they need.

"The experiences of children and the outcomes they achieve reflects the community we create and the aspirations we have for them."