TAMESIDE Council has been blasted for its delivery of education services to people with Special Educational Need and/or Disabilities (SEND).
Inspectors even believe failure to implement changes quickly enough means people ‘have continued to be let down.’
Now the authority has been told it, along with the area’s Clinical Commissioning Group, must supply a Written Statement of Intent (WSOI) to Ofsted.
The joint probe by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) judged Tameside’s effectiveness in implementing the SEND reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014.
And inspectors did not hold back in their verdict, saying: “Implementation of the 2014 code of practice started very late in Tameside.
“The area’s failure to implement the reforms earlier means that children and young people and their families have continued to be let down by services.
“For too many children, young people and their families, drift and delay have led to needs escalating and poor outcomes across education, health and care.
“The high levels of parental dissatisfaction are unacceptable. Too much time is wasted by unnecessary bureaucracy. Parents do not feel that they are treated as the experts on their own children.”
The report concedes some improvements have been made and there are staff who deserve praise – but they are being let down by the system they work in.
And despite saying the Covid-19 pandemic had played a part, the timeliness of education, health and care (EHC) assessments, has fallen back, meaning a huge impact for some.
The quality is also lacking.The scathing document, delivered to Tameside’s director of children’s services, Richard Hancock and Clinical Commissioning Group Chief Officer, Steven Pleasant, adds: “Parents are concerned that these front line staff are not able to do their jobs as well as they could due to the overly bureaucratic processes.
“Too often, requests for services are not acknowledged, important paperwork goes missing, assessments have to be repeated and the voice of the parent and child is lost.
“Those who have accessed the local offer find it hard to navigate. Added to this, parents find that the information is out of date and not relevant to their needs.
“Limited access to specialist advice and support means that schools often do not know what more they could do to support pupils at SEND support.
“And the quality and timeliness of EHC assessments are poor. In 2020, timeliness did improve, but this has now regressed because too many plans are exceeding the 20-week timescale.
“Too often, there are delays in submitting professional advice. These plans often do not accurately reflect the education, health and social care needs of children and young people.
“Weaknesses in the timeliness and quality of EHC assessments particularly affect those children and young people who are moving on to the next stage of their education.
“The lack of clear plans contributes to weak transition arrangements across all stages of education.
“Consequently, a small number of children are held back in nursery settings or are only able to attend school part time.
“For other young people, the move to high school and college becomes even more daunting. For some, this has led to placement breakdown.
“The area has failed to ensure that all children and young people with EHC plans are well prepared for adulthood.
“From the earliest years, opportunities are missed to help children and young people be ready for independent living and the world of work. Too much is left to chance.
“Too many children and young people are let down by poor-quality support for their specific needs. This is detrimental to their future.”
Inspectors, led by Ofsted regional director Andrew Cook and the CQC’s head of inspections – children’s health and justice, safe houses programme, Nigel Thompson, even pointed to an inequality in what schools offer, describing the impact of being close to a good school as a ‘golden ticket.’
They did point out the adaptations to policy have now been adopted and say: “Parents and carers and professionals recognise some improvements but believe there is still a long way to go.”But in summing up, inspectors said: “The inspection raises significant concerns about the effectiveness of the area.”
Commitment to improve unwavering
TAMESIDE bosses insist they remain committed to making their SEND services better – but admit they recognise the challenges in front of them.
The Ofsted/Care Quality Commission report did not hold back in what inspectors found was lacking in the area.
But those leading the push to improve insist work will continue, despite the damning nature of the latest findings.
They also say they will ask Downing Street for proper funding and pointed out the praise for staff and admissions that improvements are coming.
A Tameside and Glossop Strategic Commission spokesperson said: “Following a joint visit from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission to judge the effectiveness of our special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) service in Tameside, we absolutely recognise the challenges ahead of us and accept the areas of development that have been outlined.
“We are unwaveringly committing to improving at pace so that our children and young people are fulfilling their potential and families are guided and supported through a clear process that best meets the needs of their children in a timely and efficient way.
“We would like to thank Ofsted for recognising our hard-working front-line staff and we are proud of achievements to date which provide us with a solid foundation to work from.
“We are also pleased that Ofsted noted that since 2018, improvements have been made and we have the right plans in place to deliver better experiences for SEND children in Tameside.
“The pandemic has slowed recent progress but we are re-doubling our efforts, listening to parents and working closely with partners to ensure that we have a rounded and joined up approach to our local offer through education, health and care.
“We will continue to lobby Government for investment into children’s services as they have to be funded properly to support successful delivery at local level.”