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Suffolk’s SEND Strategy 2017-2020 - Parent Carer Update

March 2019

Issued on behalf of Suffolk County Council, the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk, NHS West Suffolk and NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney clinical commissioning groups, and Suffolk Parent Carer Network

Inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Suffolk in January to see how Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) services had progressed since their inspection in December.

One of the main findings in the inspectors’ subsequent report was the need to improve communications to families. They noted: “The local area’s plans are ambitious and well understood by professionals. However, the plans are not well understood by parents and carers because the reasons for the changes and the progress made toward the goals, particularly when things have not gone according to plan, have not been communicated well enough by leaders.”

As a result, we will be creating regular updates for parents and carers to keep you informed about what we’re doing to implement Suffolk’s SEND strategy. We will also explain what steps we are taking to improve services in the four key priority areas, how we plan to overcome any issues that arise and letting you know about real service improvements.

In this first update we are highlighting three areas to update you on (see below):

Specialist education placements to increase across Suffolk

In late September 2018, Suffolk County Council’s cross-party Policy Development Panel (PDP) met to look at how we will meet the needs of the growing number of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the county, as identified in the SEND Sufficiency Plan (education).

The PDP’s findings were reported to the council’s Cabinet in late January and have been fully supported by all members. They set out how Suffolk will create over 800 new specialist education places between 2019 and 2023. We aim to do this by creating 36 new units attached to mainstream primary and secondary schools to meet the needs of children and young people with moderate learning difficulties, autism and anxiety.

We plan to spread the new units evenly across the north, south and west of the county, allowing children and young people to access consistent services close to their home. 

Additionally, a further three special schools are being planned, again for the north, south and west of the county. The council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve these plans when it meets on April 23.

Families invited to give their views about proposals for Speech, Language and Communication (SLC) services in Suffolk

Parents and carers have worked in partnership with education, health and care professionals to design new SLC services that draw on the strengths and relationships of all those who work with children, young people and their families in Suffolk.

Extra money has already been agreed for additional therapists and further funds will be made available to primary schools, health visitors and early years to ensure children and families get the help they need, when they need it.

Families have the opportunity to comment on the proposed new services and give feedback on the new model via an online consultation survey that runs until Friday April 19th.

Click here for more information and to find out how you can get involved.

Delay in the introduction of a digital portal for Education Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessments  

In 2017 we identified a new software system that we believe offers us as a new way of handling referrals, information and advice for EHC Needs Assessments. The software allows children, young people and families to track and monitor the progress of their assessments in real time and to be fully involved in helping to create their own EHC plans when needed.

SCC helped to develop the software and was the first council to pilot the EHC Hub with a group of schools and families. The aim of this was to test the capabilities of the software to see whether it could improve the experience of young people and families.

We had hoped the pilot would provide families with the access and transparency they hoped for and would be an efficient system for all contributors and users so that the hub can be rolled out across Suffolk last year. Unfortunately, this has not been possible to date due to issues with the way the software is accessed and administered by different agencies and contributors. Further work is required before the new software is able to support a comprehensive digital EHC hub system that is fit for purpose and works well for everyone involved. It is worth taking the extra time to get things right.

Those people involved in the pilot have been asked to complete a survey to establish what has worked well and what needs improvement. Once the results are available young people and families across the county will be invited to comment. All the information received will then be used to make improvements.

We would like to reassure young people and their families that training continues with council staff and partner agencies to speed up the EHC Needs Assessment process while these improvements are being made to the EHC hub. This includes increasing contact with families during the process and allowing requests for correspondence to be sent by secure email if this is their preference.

Our next SEND Parent Carer Update will include details of how the new multi-agency assessment centres in Lowestoft, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds are taking shape.

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