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SEND services improved in County Durham

Published June 30, 2020 4.04pm

SEND services in County Durham have improved significantly in the last three years, a latest Ofsted and CQC inspection has shown.

SEND services in County Durham have improved significantly in the last three years, a latest Ofsted and CQC inspection has shown.

Between November 2017 and December 2017, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services across the county were assessed in a joint inspection by Ofsted and CQC.

During this time, the inspection team identified four specific areas which needed a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) be drawn up to improve local area provision.

Over the last three years, we have been working closely in partnership to improve these four areas while receiving monitoring and support visits from the DfE Regional SEN and Disability Professional Adviser, and the NHS England Deputy Director of Quality Assurance.

All local areas with a WSoA are subject to a revisit from Ofsted and the CQC around 18 months after the WSoA was signed off. The WSoA was­ declared fit for purpose in June 2018 and we were notified of the revisit in early January 2020, with inspectors on site between 22 and 24 January 2020. 

During the revisit, inspectors noted a genuine commitment to ensuring there were various communication and engagement mechanisms with families, and over 400 parents, carers and young people contributed feedback during the inspection.

Progress made

An outcome letter was received in March 2020 announcing that sufficient progress had been made in all four areas. As a result, no further monitoring of progress is now planned. 

The letter highlighted a number of areas where positive changes have been made to SEND services.

It noted that the partnership between education, health and social care leaders is stronger than it was in 2017 and there had been a determined focus on improving arrangements for identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND. 

Council and health services have also been praised for their commitment to involving children, young people and their families in shaping services, with this work "contributing strongly" to improvement in SEND arrangements. 

The letter added that groups such as the Making Changes Together parent and carer forum, the Rollercoaster Support Group, and eXtreme group of young people have been "instrumental in several significant developments since the initial inspection".

The inspection found that children and young people with SEND and their families have increasingly strong and influential voices in the development of the area's plans. There has also been a marked reduction in waiting times for specialist autism assessment and speech and language therapy assessment, with times now in line with national guidance.

Commissioning decisions, service planning and performance monitoring are also better informed by the area's analysis of education, health and social care needs. 

Overall, ourselves and Durham Clinical Commissioning Group were praised for their "greater collective ambition" for service users.

Going forward

Us and partners are now working on an action plan to develop local SEND support even further for children and their families. This is being taken forward through the local SEND partnership.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, our cabinet member for children and young people's services, said: "Partners across education, health and care services have worked together closely to address the issues that were raised in the previous inspection. We are immensely pleased to see that this work has paid off and that the significant improvements to the county's SEND services have been acknowledged and praised in this inspection.

"Going forward, it is crucial that the needs and views of young people and their families continue to be embedded at the heart of SEND provision, and our services are now working to continue developing this support even further."

Cabinet will discuss a report on the recent inspection of local SEND services when they meet virtually on Wednesday, 8 July at 9.30am. Watch our Cabinet meeting live online.

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