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(UK)Bristol: 160% increase in autism cases; 'demand continues to outstrip capacity'

April 20, 2022, Bristol Live: Council's mission to tackle SEND crisis two years on from inspection

SW England

Bristol City Council has come under scrutiny due to an alleged lack of progress made on targets to tackle the crisis in support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Campaigners have criticised the council for failing to assess and approve support for SEND children, in a timely manner, through education and health care plans (EHCPs). It comes two years after Ofsted and the CQC declared Bristol's services as 'not fit for purpose'. A progress report was presented to councillors at a council scrutiny meeting on March 7. The report detailed that there had been key improvements since the inspection in the latter half of 2019, which included better data on waiting times for EHCPs, monthly meetings of a partnership group with representatives from schools and parent groups, as well as training in schools and other early years settings as a means of helping to identify children who may be in need of additional support. A new broader SEND Partnership Plan is said to be underway, detailed to be co-produced with parent and carer groups. But, in spite of this, campaigners have put forward strong criticism on the council's lack of progress. At the council scrutiny meeting, the director of education Alison Hurley said: “There have been improvements since 2019, but we’re not where we want to be as a council. This is an area that has been impacted by Covid, staff shortages and increased demand in the system…. The report stated that "demand continues to outstrip capacity with a 160% increase in Autism Hub referral rates in the second half of 2021". It also detailed how Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) are now funding a 12-month initiative to assess children on the waiting list with lower clinical complexity by piloting a new model of locality-based ASD assessment service from December 2021….


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