Extra cash agreed to boost BCP Council special needs provision after Ofsted criticism
EXTRA finance has been agreed to improve services for special education needs and disability (SEND) provision across the BCP Council area.
The move comes after a critical Ofsted report last week which required the council to publish its plans to improve the service, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The finding included “significant areas of weakness” in the council’s SEND reforms which Ofsted said the authority had been slow to implement, with leaders “distracted and delayed from this important work by the re-organisation of the council and high staff turnover".
Its report added: “Many children and young people with SEND and their families continue to have a poor experience, and there is little sign of their outcomes improving.”
This month's cabinet meeting approved plans for an extra £292,000 for this year and £220,000 in the following financial year, reducing to £156,000 in 2023/24 and £137,000 from 2024/25 onwards.
The extra money will need to be formally approved by the full council at its next meeting although is almost certain to be agreed.
Portfolio holder Cllr Nicola Greene said the council had already started responding to the problems before the Ofsted report but now needed to produce a formal written statement of intended actions in response.
Council leader Cllr Drew Mellor described the situation as “an opportunity for the council to move forwards”, adding that services to children and families would always be a priority for the authority.
In a statement Elaine Redding, interim corporate director of children’s services at BCP Council, said: “The council accepts that a major transformation programme is needed locally to make services to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities as strong and supportive as they need to be.
"We welcome the inspection requirements and were already working on those intensively. This is now a compelling opportunity to develop a multi-agency improved service and develop that with children and families themselves at the heart of it.”
A similar commitment has also been made by the Dorset Clinical Commission Group, which works alongside the council with children and families in need of extra support.
Cllr Greene added: “The crucial need to make improvements in SEND provision has been highlighted to us by families themselves. As a council, we are determined to meet all the requirements set out for us by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.
"SEND is a multi-agency service and we will be working with our partners in health and education to build a set of services to be proud of.
"Progress has been slower than we would have expected for a number of reasons, but our priority is to deliver a service by working together in the coming weeks and months.”
Ofsted criticised the lack of progress made in implementing 2014 reforms, requiring the authority to now produce and implement a formal written statement of action which the inspection body considers fit for purpose.
If the plan is not considered adequate or cannot be delivered, the council risks intervention by the Department for Education.
Among the proposals is taking on, or seconding, additional project and programme managers, a "participation" worker for two years, adopting a specific communications plan, and parent-carer participation in the statement of action.