Reforms, what reforms? Lancashire fails SEND children and mistreats parents
Just over a year ago, I wrote about the dreadful SEND inspection report for Surrey from Ofsted/CQC, as part of the SEND reforms accountability measures. Since then quite a number of local authorities have been given detention from Ofsted/CQC, in the form of being told to write a Written Statement of Action (kind of like writing lines, but meaningful) outlining how they plan to improve. This week, almost as if none of that had happened as a warning, Lancashire County Council not only got spanked, but given a caning and temporarily excluded in its own SEND inspection report. I mean, what have they been doing for the last 3.5 years?
Unlike Surrey, I have no deep knowledge of Lancashire, other than growing up in a small village called Walshaw between the ages of three to nine, so I’ve spoken to parent carers in the county to get a better picture. I’m told that around 100 parents turned up to the Ofsted/CQC open meeting for parents for the inspection and I’m sure many more had their say at the webinar last November. Lancastrians are plain-speaking, tell it like it is folk. And tell it, they did. As a result, the inspection team had a lot to work with and were not hoodwinked by LA platitudes and ‘truth economies’.
We know from Matt Keer’s research in his Transfer to EHCP post earlier in the week, that Lancashire is wayoff meeting the deadline of March 31st for moving all children over from statements. Matt estimates that it will take them until at least July and, at this point, I wouldn’t hold my breath that they’re going to be any good, either.
The bad and the ugly
So, let’s give you a few quotes from the report’s main findings.
- Two fundamental failings in Lancashire local area. Children and their families are not at the heart of the delivery of the SEND reforms and leaders have failed to work together to deliver these reforms. As a result, children’s and young people’s needs are not always effectively identified or met and many outcomes are not improving.
- SEND provision has not been a priority for councillors or leaders across health, education and social care.
- A lack of effective strategic leadership means there is poor joint working across education, health and care professionals and they are and have underestimated how far behind they are implementing the reforms.
- Still no NHS liaison in the form of a designated clinical/medical officer (DCO) or a clear SEN strategy resulting in poorer outcomes for disabled children/young people (after 3.5 years!!)
- Leaders have an ‘inaccurate view’ of their strengths and weaknesses. They have not evaluated the impact of their actions or taken into account the views and lived experiences of children, young people and their families.
- ASD pathways, where they exist, do not comply with NICE guidelines, leading to poor identification of children with autism.
- There is a “postcode lottery” for children’s SEND support. Success is ‘siloed’ as there is no strategic leadership to spread good practice.
- Parents’ views and experiences are overwhelmingly damning. Leaders are unaware of the extent of this. Parents are bewildered and confused about how decisions are made by services about their children. They don’t believe that systems are fair and transparent and have lost trust in the local area.
- There is no clear understanding of what true co-production means, contrary to the requirements of the Code of Practice.
- The quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans seen during the inspection was alarmingly poor. Many EHC plans contain gaps, are out of date and/or do not reflect all of the child’s or young person’s needs. This means that those needs are not being met.
- The number of exclusions of children with SEND is at an unacceptable level and continues to rise.
- The local offer website is inaccessible and little known (despite there being a Facebook page for it)
- There is a “chasm” in post-16 provision. Disabled children don’t just disappear or magically recover at 16 – they need to learn life skills, work skills and independence if possible.