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Statement of action details ambitious plan to further improve services for children with special educational needs

07 October 2020

A statement of action has been published today outlining what steps will be taken to further improve support for children with special educational needs and disabilities in Norfolk.

Norfolk County Council and Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group have detailed their shared plan to address the areas of weakness identified by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission in their inspection earlier this year.

The Written Statement of Action (WSoA) focuses on three areas – the timeliness of Education, Health and Care Plans, transition to adult life and communication with families. It has been produced jointly with the four parent carer groups in the county, key stakeholders and professionals.

In it, the council and CCG pledge to improve the proportion of EHCPs completed in timescale from 8% to at least 60% in the next 18 months. There is also commitment to co-production in all service planning and to ensure there is effective transition planning between children's services, adult social services, the CCG and education and health providers so that young people have the right support and provision as they move to adult life. 

Among the actions included are: 

  • Recruitment to increase capacity in special education needs teams; 
  • Introducing new technology systems that will include self-serve options, so families can track their cases; 
  • The creation of a dedicated phone line for families who have a child with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP); 
  • Extra funding for the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS), which provides independent advice to families. 
  • The creation of a new Youth Forum, so that young people with special educational needs can help influence and design the services that support them. 

The plan builds on the Area Special Educational Needs strategy, which Ofsted and the CQC said was an ambitious and well-planned strategy but had not yet had time to have a significant impact. 

It has been submitted to Ofsted, who have accepted the plan and acknowledged the commitment to work “with an urgency and commitment to create a well thought out and precise plan.”

Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We want the best education for every child, which is why we’re investing millions of pounds in transforming special educational needs services. We’re building new special schools and working with our mainstream schools so that they have the support they need to provide the best education for children with special educational needs.

“There is no doubt that the big increase in demand we’ve faced in recent years has had an impact on frontline teams and children and their families. That’s why this plan also recognises the need to recruit more staff and improve the support and advice we give to parents.

“The plan has been produced in partnership with Norfolk’s parent carer groups and I want to thank them for their ongoing commitment and support. The creation of new Youth Forum means young people will also be able to help shape our services and tell us what they want and need – this is a really positive step.”

The WSOA has been shared with inspectors, and progress will be monitored by the Department for Education, ahead of a further area inspection in 2022. 

Rebecca Hulme, Joint Associate Director for Children, Young People and Maternity at NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG and Norfolk County Council, said: “The Ofsted and Care Quality Commission report recognised that the Norfolk system was already working in partnership to design and deliver the necessary improvements to our support for children and young people with SEND and their families. However, the report highlighted that there was a need to do this with greater pace and focus and that partnership working with children and young people and their families was too limited and did not happen consistently. 

“Developing the written statement of action has already provided positive opportunities to come together as a system to co-produce our action plan to address the areas of weakness. We look forward to building further our partnership approach and to delivering the necessary improvements to the support for CYP and families.” 

The production of the WSoA followed a series of workshops and discussions with parent/carer groups and professionals. 

Nicki Price, CEO of SENsational Families, said: “SENsational Families has been pleased to be part of the work being undertaken to bring about the necessary changes to the lived experience of the children, young people and their families in Norfolk. A great deal of work has been put into this plan and included positive participation from both professionals and parent carers.  We feel that as a charity working directly with parent carers, we provide a powerful insight into the day to day difficulties faced by SEND families and are providing these families with a voice. We are hopeful that this work will continue to include us and allow the relationship to continue to strengthen as the WSoA is implemented.” 

Chair of Family Voice Norfolk Tracey Sismey commented: “As the parent carer forum for Norfolk we have been able to contribute views and ideas from a wide range of parent carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We have worked closely with professionals from NCC, Health and the voluntary sector to ensure that the perspective of parent carers is always key and that coproduction is the accepted way of developing better services for our families. However, the real work starts now – putting into action the written plan. We look forward to continuing to represent families who too often find it hard to access the support they and their children need.”

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