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(UK) Norfolk, England: MORE SPED services needed; same situation across the country

June 8, 2020, Eastern Daily Press: ‘Not what I want for Norfolk’s children’ - council admit SEND weaknesses https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/politics/ofsted-cqc-significant-weaknesses-norfolk-special-educational-needs-disabilities-provision-1-6690178 Services which look after some of the county’s most vulnerable young people are “certainly not what I want for the children of Norfolk”, the cabinet member responsible has admitted. Watchdogs have found “significant areas of weakness” in services which look after some of Norfolk’s most vulnerable children, it can be revealed. The county’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services were reviewed by education and health regulators earlier this year, to look into the county’s effectiveness in implementing the 2014 disability and special educational needs reforms. And the inspection, carried out jointly by school’s inspector Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) in March this year, “raises significant concerns about the effectiveness of the area”, a report published today (Monday, June 3) has revealed. Issues highlighted by the inspectors include: • Long waiting times for diagnoses, poor access to services and a lack of confidence in some schools has led to a lack of trust from families; • “Chronic weaknesses” in meeting deadlines for completing education, health and care (ECH) plans; • “Angst and frustration” among staff and families; • Young people aged 18-25 facing a “cliff edge” in support with “poorly planned and uncoordinated” provision; • Service directors “underestimated” the backlog in ECH plans; • And families left “isolated” and at “crisis point” before receiving help…. However, inspectors did also note that despite services facing “chronic and wide-ranging inadequacies” two years ago, there was now a “far-reaching, ambitious, well-planned and securely financed transformation plan” in place. But the plan was described as “very new in its implementation”. The report noted that “significant investment” in new special schools was set to become an “imminent reality” and that “joint strategic planning, so long absent in Norfolk, is now a reality”…. In a statement, Mr Fisher added: “We’re already investing £120m in special educational needs and disabilities to create more specialist places and we’re increasing our support to schools, so that they can help their children earlier. “We’ve also increased capacity in our specialist teams and, as inspectors said, this is starting to make a real difference to children and their families. “Local authorities across the country are facing similar challenges and we have raised this with government, alongside other councils. We need a national solution to what is a national challenge.”… But Nicki Price, chief executive of the charity SENsational Families warned that “families are really struggling to get the help they need”. She said: “It is frustrating and it’s taking a long time to get them to listen. It is heartbreaking because you hear the same stories over and over again from families. “It’s a constant fight for them. She added: “We have families now who are waiting for school place for their children for this September. … “People feel let down; not just with plans, support and communication, but in access to essential pathway provision into adulthood and independent living…. While Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat councillor, added: “The message from the council’s leadership is that they are not surprised by the areas of weakness that Ofsted has identified. But that begs the question what have they been doing about it? “They can’t keep blaming increased demand because everyone knows the need for support has been growing for a long time. Ofsted focuses on the need for the council to involve parents in the solution… “However, this is not just a Norfolk issue, it highlights how the system and crucially the finances within it, need to be reviewed and improved by the government. Hopefully we can now move forward with everyone working together to improve the lives and outcomes for all of our residents with SEND and their families.”