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Working together for improved outcomes for special needs children

This follows the recent Local Area Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) inspection by OFSTED and the CQC which identified strengths in local practice as well as a number of areas for improvement in how the needs of children and young people were identified and met.

The inspection identified that the local area has not implemented national reforms consistently or swiftly enough meaning that children and young people with SEND and their families have widely different experiences of how their needs are identified and met. Whilst the inspectors identified that frontline professionals in education, health and care work hard to make a positive difference to children and young people with SEND they recognised that too many children and young people do not have their needs assessed accurately or in a timely way.

The findings by the inspectors confirmed issues that had been identified locally and plans are already being progressed to make further improvements. Senior officials have, however, identified that it will take time and require a city-wide approach by the council, CCG, health services, families, schools and post-16 institutions to ensure that every child with needs gets the right support at the right time.

The inspection in November 2018 looked at Sheffield’s effectiveness in identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities and how this improved outcomes for them. The findings are available here.

Inspectors conducted 20 focus groups and visited a number of education and care settings. They met with children, young people, parents and carers as well as providers and professionals.

The report highlighted seven areas for improvement, which the Council and CCG will address over the next 18 months through an action plan called a ‘Written Statement of Action’.

Councillor Jayne Dunn, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills said:

“We are appreciative of the tough and rigorous process run by the inspectors and for the cooperation of children, young people and their families as well as professionals across education, health and care.

“The results confirmed for us, not only the challenges we knew that we faced but also the complexity involved in solving them for their families.

“We have been and will continue working hard to improve services at all levels and have already made some significant progress. We know that further success will only happen if everyone works together - the health services, schools, post-16 institutions, families, social care and the council.

“We are supportive of the changes brought in in 2014 and we know that it has taken us longer than it should have to implement these changes but in a time of significant budget cuts we have been able to maintain the funding we have invested in SEND. Whilst we have continued to invest and not reduce funding to SEND we remain underfunded via the government’s own calculations. We recognise that the challenging financial times are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.”

Mandy Philbin, Chief Nurse at Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, added:

“We’d like to thank everyone who got involved in giving feedback as part of the inspection and helping us to address issues. We know that there is more work to do to ensure that we consistently identify and meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. We will continue to work with our partners and service users to help deliver this to make experiences better.

“We are, however, pleased that the inspectors’ recognised staff worked hard to make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people.”

Stephen Betts, Chief Executive of Learn Sheffield said:

“The inspection was a thorough process which provides us with an accurate assessment of where we are as a city. It correctly praises the hard work of colleagues across Sheffield who work tirelessly to meet the needs of children, young people and their families. It also provides useful recommendations about the improvements that need to be made which can only be achieved if all partners are fully involved.”