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Improving Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Services in Suffolk: November 21 update

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A message from Ros Somerville, Assistant Director, Inclusion, Children & Young People’s Directorate, Suffolk County Council

Dear Parent / Carer

It has been two months since we published the findings of the Lincolnshire Independent Review into SEND Services in Suffolk.  I am mindful that one of the things we must do is communicate better with you as families, and so what follows is a short update on what we have done so far and what our next steps will be.

Over the last two months, we have undertaken the following actions.

  • We have appointed IMPOWER to work in partnership with us, to support to implement the recommendations. IMPOWER are an independent company experienced with working with the public sector to improve service outcomes. You can find out more about IMPOWER on their website;
  • We are working with IMPOWER, and parent carers on an Integrated Delivery Plan detailing how we plan to meet the review’s recommendations and set out the timescales for our actions. This work is ongoing, and when the plan is ready, we will share it with you.
  • We are recruiting additional staff to our Family Services teams at both management and support officer levels. This will take some time yet to complete and is proving more difficult than we would like. However, it is vital that we continue to increase the overall size of our team to manage the volume of work.
  • We are recruiting additional Educational Psychologists to the team.
  • We are redesigning our decision-making panels, including our Specialist Education Panel (SEP). This work is being coproduced across the SEND system with social care, education, health, and parent/carer representatives.
  • We have provided training on SEND Decision Making and the Law which was attended by over 100 members of staff. This session was based on training from the Independent Provider of Special Educational Advice (IPSEA). A further session is planned for later in November.
  • We have completed a review of the system we use to hold all our data about children and young people with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. We now have an improved system that will track which annual reviews have been received and which have not been received such that we can ensure we take appropriate action.  This review has also identified how we can use the system to help us to work as efficiently as possible.
  • We have employed time from an additional SEND Specialist Solicitor, to help us as we analyse our current processes and working practices against the SEND Code of Practice (2015) and look to develop new processes in- line with the review recommendations.

In addition, I am delighted to be able to bring you news of the new Suffolk Parent Carer Forum, which will become our formal coproduction partner for SEND. The Management Board of the Forum are in place; they are currently recruiting and training new members and we anticipate them being fully up and running by the new year. I would like to thank those of you who have worked so hard and so quickly to get the new forum in place and I should like to encourage you all to join the forum to support and strengthen it with your voices and experience. You can find out more about the forum by visiting their Facebook page Suffolk Parent Carer Forum.

Next Steps

There is much work still to do and a lot is planned. Our immediate next steps are to:

  • agree and publish our Integrated Delivery Plan, with a list of actions to be taken against each review recommendation and anticipated timescales;
  • provide a detailed report to Education & Children Services Scrutiny Committee on progress, next steps and evidence our improvements on 9 December 2021;
  • complete a more detailed analysis of the volume of work and check we have enough staff in the right places to complete the work.
  • develop our processes to ensure that we improve coproduction at the individual child level as part of an EHC needs assessment;
  • complete a staff training needs analysis to identify and address any gaps in knowledge.

If you would like to be kept up to date with our progress and with future developments of SEND in Suffolk, you can:

We anticipate that our next update will be published in January 2022. If you have any questions about the review in the meantime, you can email us at sendreview@suffolk.gov.uk.

Your faithfully

Ros Somerville

Assistant Director, Inclusion, Children & Young People’s Directorate, Suffolk County Council

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