Central Beds Council is ‘ahead of the game’ with its new SEND strategy

Central Bedfordshire Council is “ahead of the game” in what it is trying to achieve with its new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) strategy, a meeting heard.

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 5:09 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 5:14 pm

Central Bedfordshire Council is “ahead of the game” in what it is trying to achieve with its new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) strategy, a meeting heard.

BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group and the local authority were required to produce the document as part of a written statement of action, after an Ofsted/CQC inspection found “significant areas of weakness in the local practice”.

The strategy will act as the three-year plan for the SEND system, setting out local area priorities for improving services and outcomes for children and young people, according to a report to CBC’s health and wellbeing board.

Central Beds Council headquarters

The six key ambitions are: ensuring suitable education provision; system that works together; knowledgeable workforce and community empowered to support families; clear pathways and seamless transfers and transitions; the right support at the right time; and opportunities in the community for children, young people and families.

“It also builds on the SEND joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA), and will be accompanied by a SEND action plan,” said the report.

“These priorities will allow for clear accountability within the locality for improving the outcomes for children and young people with an extra need, including those with education health care plans.”

The action plan explains a clear set of tasks against each priority area, which are to be reviewed on an annual basis, added the report.

“The strategy is based on children and young people with extra needs and has been developed through engagement with families and partners, as well as analysis of local evidence and data sets detailed in the JSNA.

“There’s reputational risk to the council and the local area if we fail to provide appropriate provision for our children with EHCPs, as identified in the SEND Code of Practice 2014.

“This will be a key area of focus for the forthcoming Ofsted SEND re-inspection.

“There continues to be financial pressure across the system to meet need,” warned the report. “The high needs block of the dedicated schools grant (DSG) is reporting a £4.2m overspend at the end of January.”

Chief SEND officer Jackie Edwards said: “I don’t think there’s anything that’s contentious because it’s exactly what we know needs doing.

“This was written before the (government) Green Paper was finished indicating right support, right place, right time.

“And that would apply to this strategy as well. Although the Green Paper is still in consultation, we’re ahead of the game in my view in what we’re trying to achieve around this agenda. The key thing is accountability.”

Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark described it as “a really good strategy”, saying: “I hope we get great support for this as we endeavour to improve our SEND services.”

SNAP parent carer forum director Kirsty Green said: “It’s the action plan which is going to sit underneath and is going to be really important to our families because that’s what will drive improvements in local SEND services.”

Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey asked what would happen if there are any “large delays in the NHS with diagnosis and assessment”.

Ms Edwards replied: “Our work will be strengthened by this strategy. We’ll be working together and looking at ways to commission jointly the services required. It will be driving us forward collectively to get the best available to us.”

The board agreed to the eight-week ‘Have your say’ public consultation going ahead, with the outcomes due back at its October meeting.