Special educational needs services overhaul planned after concerns raised

Classroom file pic.

NHS and local authority leaders in North Yorkshire look set to approve an overhaul of special educational needs and disability (SEND) services to improve outcomes for children and young people in the face of spiralling demand for services.

The move has been shaped around the findings of a Council for Disabled Children report which said both professionals and parents believed sweeping systemic changes were needed, including increasing access to support across England’s largest county.

The study, commissioned by North Yorkshire Council and North Yorkshire clinical commissioning group, saw professionals and parents claim that “many schools still see children and young people with SEND as a burden and as a result seek to ‘get these children out of our schools’.”

Other concerns with existing services included insufficient accountability and transparency.

The report stated: “Strong language was used here, demonstrating a lack of trust in local leaders and the system.

“There is a clear ask for a change in culture and a new language around SEND which moves away from apportioning blame and towards shared responsibility for improving the lives of children and young people with SEND and their families.”

The Council for Disabled Children report added there was insufficient joined up working between different professionals which was “partially related to attitude”.

The report stated: “Professionals felt that reaching parent carers is often a challenge, with face-to-face meetings a challenge due to geography and digital meetings not fully inclusive due to low literacy or digital poverty.

“Some parent carers who have engaged have received disrespectful responses from professionals, or have been ignored, which has resulted in crisis when parent carers have been trying to flash early warning signs.”

The study found participants in all focus groups shared concerns about negative relationship between reduced services and a large, rural county.

“Parents shared many examples of the long journey they have to make to access support, with a particular concern about the lack of local social activities for their children.”

“Both parents and professionals feel that many schools still see children and young people with SEND as a burden and as a result seek to ‘get these children out of our schools’.”

Among a revised list of strategic priorities to be considered on Tuesday by North Yorkshire Council’s executive, officers have pointed towards the importance of identifying the needs of children and young people early.

An officer’s report to the executive emphasises across education, health and care services in North Yorkshire to improve early identification systems “will remain a key focus so that children can access the support they need as they need it”.

Following concerns being raised over funding for SEND services as numbers of diagnosed children increase, the report states the strategy was developed with consideration to the “statutory duties of education, health and social care services”.

It adds: “The financial implications to this proposed strategy are intended to create more opportunities for joint commissioning of services between partners and to ensure that resources available are used efficiently.

“It is anticipated that taking forward these proposals would improve support and outcomes without incurring additional financial pressure than would otherwise be expected from growth in demand.”

Councillor Janet Sanderson said the services available to SEND children and young children were “life-changing” and learning of their struggles was “heart-wrenching”.

She said: “This new strategy is a real partnership between health, the council and the parent-carers. We always need to improve services and this is what the strategy will do.

“Underneath the strategy will sit a very detailed operational plan.

“We want to work with parents so it is their ideas put forward. Rather than say what we are going to do to them we will be saying what difference has been made?”