AUTHORITIES have been ordered to make urgent improvements over the support provided to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Both BCP Council and Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group have been told to provide a written statement of action due to "significant areas of weakness in the area's practice".

The concerns over SEND support have been raised less than a year after Ofsted slammed BCP Council's children's services after it ruled the local authority was putting vulnerable children at risk.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) conducted a joint inspection of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole earler this summer to judge the effectiveness of the area in implementing the special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014.

A letter sent to the local authority and CCG by Her Majesty's Inspector Matthew Barnes, which was released today, set out the following problems which need to be addressed:

  • The deep cultural issues leading to weak partnership working between services across education, health and care and between these services and children and young people with SEND and their families
  • Weaknesses in leaders’ evaluations of the effectiveness of the local area, including the lack of focus on the experiences of children and young people with SEND and their families
  • Poor co-production practice at a strategic and operational level
  • Weaknesses in the sustainability of services in the face of high turnover of staff and challenges with recruitment
  • The inconsistency in the implementation of the graduated response leading to slow identification and inequitable access and experience of the system across education, health and care
  • The wide variances in the quality of education, health and care plans caused by weaknesses in joint working, fair access, timeliness and quality assurance processes
  • Poor joint commissioning arrangements that limit leaders’ ability to meet local area needs, improve outcomes and achieve cost efficiencies
  • The proportion of pupils not accessing education because of the disproportionate use of exclusion and poor inclusive practices across the area

Elaine Redding, BCP Council's interim corporate director of children’s services, 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 (SEND) 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 service and offer to children and families and to develop that improved service with children and families themselves. at the heart of it."

Sally Sandcraft, Dorset CCG's senior responsible officer for SEND, said: “We are very committed to our joint work to, at pace, address the areas for improvement for children and young people with special education needs, and their families.

"The NHS plays an important role in assessment, diagnosis, treatment and support, and the way that this is delivered in terms of timeliness, experience and outcomes needs to improve.

"We will continue to work with partners, young people with SEND and their families to address the issues raised in the inspection."

Councillor Nicola Greene, BCP Council's portfolio holder for education, said: “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.”

Publication of the critical inspection comes less than a week after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services told Dorset Police to immediately make a range of improvements to protect the most at risk children.