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(UK) Experts warn about lack of adult services AGAIN

Nov 5, 2021, FE Week: ‘Everything goes at 18’: Ofsted warns of SEND cliff-edge

Support for special educational needs students beyond age 16 is an area of “serious weakness” in ten areas visited by Ofsted after inspections restarted this year.

Experts have warned the situation is so bad that colleges are being left to pick up the pieces and help the learners “almost by magic”….

“It’s a real concern that young people aren’t getting the support they need as they transition between services and into adulthood.”

FE Week found ten of the 16 reports published after the inspections resumed in May highlighted problems faced by post-16 special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) learners, mostly in their transitions from school to further education or employment.

Councils were slammed by Ofsted for having “too many” young people not in education, employment or training, and for having “limited and variable” pathways to adulthood….

This comes as the government last month parachuted in a SEND commissioner to remedy failures in Birmingham – the first intervention of its kind.

‘Confusion’ at transition points for SEND learners

Learners with SEND can stay in school until age 19, but can leave earlier and many will go to a college. It is estimated that over a quarter of colleges’ 16-to-18 population have SEND.

Not all will have an education, health and care plan (EHCP), which sets out the needs of a young person with SEND.

From age 19 to 23, they will leave college and move into employment or care, among other options.

It is at age points 16, 19, and when they are in their twenties that information becomes “confused” between the councils, health authorities and education providers involved in SEND services, experts say….

Many parents in the area “feel they need to find out everything themselves”, the report adds.

In Tower Hamlets, adult services were found to be refusing referrals from children’s health teams until a young person’s 18th birthday, which the report says “hinders effective transition planning”….

SEND families deal with ‘appalling’ lack of guidance

Specialist providers’ network Natspec’s chief executive Clare Howard blamed the problems on a “really appalling” lack of advice and guidance for families on post-16 options and on local authorities not engaging in a “timely manner” in what happens once a SEND learner leaves education….

A survey of 137 families of a young person with an EHCP, carried out by Natspec, found 58 per cent believed discussions about post-16 options came too late….

Councils admit there is ‘significant work to do’

Several councils have acted on their SEND provision since the publication of their area review.

In a joint statement, Sunderland’s city council, children’s services and NHS clinical commissioning group said it recognises “there is more do” to improve provision and they are “taking steps in the right direction to ensure children and families’ needs are addressed”….

Councils were handed £2.6 billion [43.5B] in last week’s spending review for new school places for SEND pupils, whereas post16 providers received nothing for their students.

Despite local authorities being responsible for SEND learners up to the age of 25, it is unlikely any of the £2.6 billion will go to post-16 providers.

Following the Budget, the Special Needs Jungle blog said just one per cent of non-ringfenced SEND capital grants paid to local authorities by the DfE over the past three years went to FE and early-years providers.

Ninety-five per cent went to mainstream or special schools and alternative provision providers – which educate children who are outside the school system.

When asked whether any of the £2.6 billion will go to FE providers, the LGA said it wanted the SEND review to grant “long-term certainty of funding”.

SEND consultant Barney Angliss argues the capital funding announced in the budget would not be much help to colleges though, as “just building another classroom doesn’t solve the issue”.

Students with EHCPs are “phenomenally expensive” compared to their peers, he said, and this all comes ahead of a demographic bump which will mean an extra 90,000 students in college classrooms by 2024/25, according to the AoC.

Though Angliss did say the extra money going towards school SEND places could mean specialist schools expanding their age range from 16 to 19, taking some pressure off colleges.


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