Agenda item

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Update

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Families and Young People introduced the item and stated that two major pieces of work were being undertaken; expansion of special schools for autism and speech and language difficulties, and the move from SEN statements to Education, Health & Care (EHC) Plans. This move was progressing at pace and was on target. Following up on an issue from last year’s commission regarding communications, she believed this was still an issue but had improved considerably. She also met with parents of children with disabilities regularly in various forums and relations, though not perfect, had improved.

 

The Director of Education, Learning and Skills explained that the Council’s responsibilities had widened under the Children and Families Act to cover young people up to the age of 25 who were on EHC plans, and attempts were being made to increase the number of SEN places following a programme of building. Sixth forms had been added, resource bases existed in 10 mainstream schools and new units had been opened; in addition the Vanguard Free School was scheduled to open in 2018 and cater for 78 pupils with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). In was hoped that this would, in time, also reduce the cost of SEN transport. A SEND area inspection was expected by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, and preparations for this were being put in place.

 

In response to questions from members of the commission, the following points were made:

  • It would be good to begin thinking about how effective pre-decision scrutiny could be carried out with regards to such issues as SEN transport, children’s centres, adventure playgrounds and One O’clock Clubs in order that scrutiny members and the public could input into the thinking at an appropriate stage. The Cabinet Member for Families and Young People stated she would consider this and suggested autumn may be an appropriate time, though this would be confirmed in due course
  • SEN transport was reviewed annually to ensure it was fit for purpose. It was quite costly to provide and the Council tried to support people to make their own journeys wherever possible
  • With reference to the seven key issues related to the Children and Families Act listed on p74 of the agenda pack, it was queried how personal budgets were working and how many families were opting to manage their own budget. Officers responded that there were currently just four families doing this, for such purposes as providing additional support for home education, additional physiotherapy and early years hearing impairment support; however, there were many more families who took direct payments for transport
  • The EHC plan conversion process constituted a significant workload and was very time consuming to begin with but was now being done more efficiently. A change had been made to enable EHC coordinators to work closely with families going through the process and this had made it more person-centred
  • The change in funding arrangements for schools had been challenging as there was no additional funding for those without EHC plans, who might previously have been on school action or school action plus. Caseloads had been very sizeable with a 25% increase in requests; this pattern was reflected across London
  • Work was being done with Early Years providers to identify needs at an early stage and support children in requesting or obtaining EHC plans before they started school

 

Supporting documents: