Agenda item

Local Area Inspection of SEND

The Committee is asked to consider the Written Statement of Action, Written Statement of Action Monitoring Dashboard and progress following the local area SEND inspection in May 2017. 

Minutes:

Gail Tolley (the Council’s Strategic Director of Children and Young People) introduced the paper which had been developed jointly with the Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The Committee heard that, in May 2017, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had conducted a joint inspection of Brent to judge the effectiveness of the area in implementing the improvements within the Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. Ms Tolley said that the inspection report had been complimentary of the strategic leadership at the Local Authority and the relationship between the Local Authority and schools in the area, which demonstrated the strong link between education and care outcomes. However, there were some areas where the inspection team felt there had been reasons for concern (page 12 to the Agenda pack). These had included concerns about a lack of strategic leadership within the CCG related to implementation of the SEND reforms and the fragmented approach to joint commissioning leading to gaps in services and separated commissioned services being delivered by the same provider. Having been invited to comment, Sheik Auladin (Interim Chief Operating Officer at Brent CCG) advised that deficits identified by the inspection were being addressed and approximately £1.2 million would be invested in integrating services and joint commissioning, with outcomes expected in a short period of time. In relation to a question about improvement of frontline services, Sarah Basham (Vice-Chair of the Children’s Trust and Co-Clinical Director at Brent CCG) said that therapists would be supported by the Designated Clinical Officer and the Council for Disabled Children to provide information in a format that would be compatible with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.

 

Ms Tolley added that an action plan, formally identified as a Written Statement of Action, had been agreed and it had been approved by Ofsted without comment. She informed the Committee that the monitoring dashboard had been updated, with the most recent version dated 3 November 2017. Furthermore, Sheik Auladin pointed out that ways to integrate health and Local Authority commissioning had been examined and work had begun on all actions included in the Written Statement of Action. The Committee heard that a further priority for the CCG would be to make joint commissioning arrangements work to address the issue of fragmented commissioning. 

 

A Member of the Committee and an appointed observer raised the issue of SEND provision in academies, given the difference in funding and terms of reference for admission. Ms Tolley assured the Committee that the inspection team had visited both maintained schools and academies and they had not pointed out any differences in terms of experience and outcomes for children based on the type of school. She explained that there were two academies and two maintained special schools in Brent, with the majority of young people with additional needs educated in mainstream schools. Ms Tolley said that one of the areas where improvements could be made was the provision of school support for children at maintained schools. In relation to a further query regarding the potential academisation of a particular school, Councillor Mili Patel (Lead Member for Children and Young People) and Ms Tolley both confirmed that they had not been formally approached and suggested that as this was not directly related to the item under consideration it would be more appropriate for further discussion on this issue to take place outside of the formal committee meeting, which the Chair supported.

 

The Committee focused its attention on the recruitment and the work of therapists. Duncan Ambrose (Assistant Director at National Health Service (NHS) Brent CCG) said that it had been challenging to recruit audiology specialists so shared service arrangements had been made with Hounslow; occupational therapists (one additional member of staff had been recruited so the number of cases on the waiting list had been reduced by 50%); and speech and language therapists. Mr Ambrose noted that action had been taken to address the shortages in the immediate term and an update on the situation was expected in January 2018. In terms of the need for extra resources, Dr Basham said that it would be more important to examine the resources currently available and consider how lessons learned could be implemented to ensure these went further without increasing budgets. Ms Tolley added that funding for education for children with additional needs and disabilities came through the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). She emphasised that the biggest impact on outcomes for children was and would be created by changes to the national funding formula and the high needs block, which combined with population growth, created additional pressure for funding special educational needs. Andrew Ward (the Council’s Head of Finance – Children and Young People) commented on the High Needs Block and pointed out that the funding formula was well below the level Brent currently received and the small increase that had been applied was below the level of inflation.

 

As far as EHC plans were concerned, Mr Ambrose explained that there was a standardised template which determined the type of needs. New operating procedures had been introduced to allow health providers to write a summary that was tailored to their needs and provided a good understanding of the purpose of the plan. Brian Grady (the Council’s Operational Director Safeguarding, Performance and Strategy) said that a high level of completion of EHC plans was maintained and, despite the current demand on the system, there would not be an increase of funding in real terms. However, Members challenged the amber status of completion of plans and Mr Grady clarified that it was a result of a comparison to previous reports.

 

A Co-opted Member referred to the 17% increase in requests for new EHC plans between October 2016 and October 2017 and enquired what the percentage in other boroughs was. Mr Grady said that work had been undertaken to find out the reasons for this increase and its scale in other areas. He acknowledged that requests for new plans had increased nationally, but did not dismiss the possibility that the figure could be a result of greater awareness. Mr Ambrose said that engagement with members of the public had been good and people had been actively involved in co-production of plans. However, specific challenges associated with getting the voice of young people heard and making sure they knew how to access Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) remained. He noted that provision of mental health services in schools had been improved, meetings with headteachers had been set up and engagement activities had been planned, but this could take time due to the large number of schools in the Borough. 

 

A Co-opted Member pointed out that the report had been presented to the Committee after targets had been agreed and the action plan had been set. In response, Ms Tolley said that this was due to the fact that the paper had to be submitted to Ofsted by a specific deadline

 

RESOLVED that:

(i)     The contents of the Local Area Inspection of SEND paper, be noted;

 

(ii)    The next steps to continue to address the areas of concern identified through the local area SEND inspection be endorsed;

 

(iii)  Details of a Human Resources Strategy for the delivery of the future therapy service model be provided at a future meeting of the Committee;

 

(iv)  Information about how the SEND budget in the health and social care system  would be safeguarded be provided at a future meeting of the Committee; and

 

(v)    An update report on jointly commissioned services be provided during the 2018/2019 municipal year.  

Supporting documents: