North Northamptonshire SEND children being let down by 'widespread' and 'systemic failings', says joint Ofsted and CQC report

Inspectors from Care Quality Commission and Ofsted delivered their report today
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The two leaders charged with caring for the most vulnerable children and young people in north Northamptonshire have apologised for letting them down.

Services for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) across the area have been ripped apart in a damning report.

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Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted said ‘widespread and/or systemic failings’ must be addressed ‘urgently.’

Cllr Jason Smithers , leader of North Northamptonshire Council, (top) and Toby Sanders, Chief Executive of NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board (bottom)/National WorldCllr Jason Smithers , leader of North Northamptonshire Council, (top) and Toby Sanders, Chief Executive of NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board (bottom)/National World
Cllr Jason Smithers , leader of North Northamptonshire Council, (top) and Toby Sanders, Chief Executive of NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board (bottom)/National World

The SEND Local Area Partnership is made up of two statutory bodies, North Northamptonshire Council and NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board, seeing services delivered across the area in conjunction with Northamptonshire Children’s Trust together with schools, nurseries and North Northamptonshire Parent Carer Voice.

In a joint statement Cllr Jason Smithers, North Northamptonshire Council's leader, and Toby Sanders, chief executive of NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board, said:  “We fully accept and acknowledge the findings of the Ofsted report and are sorry to all those children, young people and their families who have been let down. It is our absolute priority to ensure immediate action to drive the urgent improvements which have been highlighted.”

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The joint report into the SEND Local Partnership says delays providing services for SEND children are making matters worse. A huge list of areas for improvement have been highlighted with the strategy and implementation of services all falling short. The lack of ‘communication’ and ‘oversight’ between the partners has left the service unable to improve ‘experiences and outcomes for children’. It also says there is no ‘comprehensive understanding of what good-quality partnership working looks like in north Northamptonshire’, leaders are not working together effectively or quickly enough to help children, and ways to improve the service have not been thought about carefully enough to make improvements.

It says:

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◼ Leaders have ‘not ensured that there is a clear and cohesive strategic direction for the local partnership’

◼ Leaders have not ensured that the recently-agreed SEND strategy includes effective plans that ‘clearly demonstrate how improvements are to be made in a timely manner’ for key areas including ‘transitions, waiting times for health services, support available while waiting, accurate identification of children’s needs and the quality of EHC plans’ (Education, Health and Care Plan)

◼ Local area leaders do not work together effectively in order to meet their statutory requirements for joint commissioning fully

◼ Those responsible for governance have not ensured that there is a ‘shared and effective oversight of the activities the partners undertake to fulfil their responsibilities’

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◼ Local area leaders have not jointly or accurately identified, assessed and provided for the needs of children and young people with SEND, and the creation and review of EHC plans have not been accurately created, with the backlog meaning existing plans remain out of date for ‘years’ and ‘not fit for purpose’

◼ Excessive waiting times for access to services, including speech and language therapy and mental health services, have negative impacts on the lives of children and young people with SEND, with some children’s needs escalating due to lack of sufficient support for families

◼ Specialist equipment is not always available to meet individual needs

◼ Delays in assessments and complicated arrangements to access funding for support mean that the required support for children in Early Years settings is ‘often not in place quickly enough to benefit children before they move into their next setting’, with some children ‘missing out on specialist settings and some transitions to mainstream school’ because the appropriate support is not in place in time

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◼ Local area leaders have not yet developed a strategic approach to commissioning sufficient ‘quality alternative provision’ to adequately meet the needs of children and young people with SEND – as a result, some children and young people are ‘missing out on full-time education’

◼ Support and help for key transitions, particularly at 16-years-old, either comes too late, or in many cases, not at all

Sam Baker, director of Northamptonshire Parent Carers Voice, said: “Sadly, the findings of the inspection accurately reflect the reality of lived experiences that local families often share with us and the concerns that we frequently raise with services. Urgent and comprehensive action must now be taken by the local area partnership to address the systemic failures highlighted by the outcome

“We were reassured by the scope and depth of the inspection in which we played a key role of delivering the voices and the experiences of local families directly to inspectors. We are hopeful the report will give a clearer focus to the drive to improve and serve as a catalyst for positive change.

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“Whilst there are areas where findings may not reflect the experience of every family, we are pleased to see highlighted the areas of effective practice, potential for improvement from planned and new initiatives as well as emerging ‘green shoots’ for more effective early help.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead and we remain committed to working constructively in partnership with North Northamptonshire Council, Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board and Northamptonshire’s Children’s Trust to develop a strong improvement plan.

“We feel that by listening to the voices and perspectives of families and young people with SEND and putting them at the heart of cohesive plans, real changes can be made, and positive outcomes can be achieved.”

Some areas of the partnership were said to be ‘delivering effectively’ including children with visual and or hearing impairment being ‘well supported’, that the partnership is ‘starting to support children and families with SEND through earlier interventions’, nurseries and specialist schools ‘appreciate and value’ the advice of the SEND support service and the school nurses at specialist schools across the area were ‘well thought of’ by the children and professionals.

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North Northamptonshire Council and the NHS Northamptonshire Integrated Care Board have now promised a ‘Priority Improvement Action Plan’ and have asked for people to give feedback by emailing [email protected]