KOODAKPRESS

Gloucestershire Children with disabilities are excluded from schools

Many children have been forced to wait for more than a year for mental health support

According to koodakpress، A higher-than-normal proportion of disabled children with special needs are being kicked out of schools in South Gloucestershire, it has been revealed.

 

A joint inspection by education regulator Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission has found “significant areas of weakness” in how the area provided for children with special education needs or disabilities.

 

Over five days in November, the team of inspectors spoke with children, parents, carers, South Gloucestershire Council and the NHS officers working in the area about how SEN children were cared for.

 

The report, which has just been published, criticised both the council and the local clinical commissioning group, and said more needed to be done to help children.

 

Among those in the team were Bradley Simons, regional director for Ofsted and Ursula Gallagher, a deputy chief inspector for the CQC.

 

There are more than 1,550 children with an Education, Health and Care plan and another 172 young people waiting to be converted. There are also dozens appealing for one.

 

An EHC plan means additional support can be allocated to the child.

 

Children being excluded

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One of the main points brought up in the report is the number of exclusions – both fixed-term and permanent – which have been handed out to children.

“Fixed-term exclusions from local schools are higher than national figures for those pupils who have SEN support and for those who have a statement for EHC plan, especially in secondary schools,” the team wrote.

 

“Permanent exclusions from local schools are also higher than seen nationally for those with SEN support.”

 

Secondary schools in South Gloucestershire amount for majority of the fixed-term exclusions, with five main schools being accountable for about 50 per cent of them.

 

Nearly 40 per cent of the exclusions take place in the middle of secondary school, in years 9 and 10.

 

Permanent exclusions are also high.

 

Poor management for too long

The inspection found that senior leaders were too slow to implement reforms ordered by the Government in 2014.

 

“A lack of strategic direction, frequent staff changes, and changes to the roles and responsibilities of senior leaders have reduced the capacity of the local area to deliver the statutory reforms effectively,” the inspectors said.

 

“There are long-standing problems in some services provided by the local area.

 

“Health leaders and managers do not have sufficient oversight of practitioners and participation in the EHC plan processes across the local area’s health services.”

 

Parents complain

Families are forced to wait a long time for assessment, and in many cases, are denied an EHC plan, the report found. A “significant proportion” of parents and carers said they were not confident in the local area, and that there were long timescales for statutory assessments to be done.

 

“Many of them do not know what help is available, where or how to access it,” said the inspectors. “They are too reliant on self-help and ‘ad hoc’ or informal support, from other parents and families.”

 

About one in four (26 per cent) of plans are not issued on time.

 

The regulators said: “The consensus of parents is that they [the plans] are not helpful in ensuring that their children’s needs are identified and met.”

 

A “high number” of parents are forced to challenge decisions about whether to award a plan at a tribunal, with concerns about delays, accuracy and quality of information.

 

The “unacceptably long waits” for children with autism were higlighted. Delays stop children from being placed in an appropriate school and cause “unnecessary stress and anxiety”, the inspectors found.

 

Poor mental health support

The redesign of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the area meant 12 per cent of young people were not seen within 18 weeks, inspectors said.

 

There is a ‘logjam’, with children waiting more than a year for just for a CAMHS assessment. Inspectors found there were “no clear plans” to reduce the backlog.

 

Parents told inspectors they had to wait a long time for EHC plans and there was a lack of communication with them.

 

“There has been little formal training for health services and their practitioners to enable them to deliver the 2014 SEND reforms,” the inspectors said. “Senior leaders accept that it has taken too long to complete EHC plans.”

 

The response

The council and CCG said they were making improvements.

 

South Gloucestershire Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, Jon Hunt, said: “We fully accept the overall findings of the report, which highlights many strengths to build on and recognises the progress made in improving services and outcomes for children and young people with SEND, particularly in recent months.

 

“To better meet the needs of these children, we set up an Improvement Board to drive positive change, because we recognised from an early stage that more needed to be done to plan and deliver high-quality services.

 

“The process for getting Education, Health and Care Plans in place has been drastically improved as the 20 week statutory process for completing these plans is being met.

 

“We are already working closely with our NHS partners and education settings to bring about rapid improvements to the outcomes for children and young people with SEND and their families.

 

And in January, we will be running a consultation on the revised SEND strategy so that parents and carers can have their say on this important area of work, which will help shape the way services are provided by the council and our partners in the health service.”

 

Director of Nursing and Quality for the NHS South Gloucestershire CCG, Anne Morris, said: “The report highlights the strengths of the current system and documents areas of improvement, whilst recognising areas of concern and the need for improvement in others.

 

“The CCG has already taken action in many of these areas including targeting waiting times in key therapeutic services, and investment in a waiting list initiative to reduce waiting times for assessment of children who may have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

 

“Services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities are among our top priorities.”

 

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