‘Serious weaknesses’ in special needs dept
STOCKPORT Council’s special educational needs department has ‘serious weaknesses’ a watchdog has claimed.
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) visited the town’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) department in September and found shortcomings in the borough’s arrangements for identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children and teens with special educational needs (SEN) or disabilities.
While inspectors found that front-line staff were ‘dedicated and passionate,’ they were critical of the local authority for not knowing the town’s demographic well enough.
The effectiveness of meeting the needs of young people was found to be ‘inconsistent and variable.’
“Their day-to-day lived experience are polarised,” the report said.
“This results in different outcomes for children and young people who have similar needs and starting points.”
Some parents told inspectors they had ‘amazing support,’ while most felt they had to ‘fight every step of the way’ to get the right help, inspectors added.
Youngsters with the most pressing social care needs do receive a package of support, yet for other families help ‘only comes at the point of crisis.’
The inspection found that many parents were unaware of the services and support available in Stockport.
More and more parents have opted to educate children with SEND at home since 2014, the report revealed.
The CQC said Stockport Council must produce ‘a written statement of action’ due to the ‘significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice.’
The CQC did highlight some strengths among Stockport’s SEND services.
Education, health and care plans (EHCPs) are completed in a timely manner, and the local area takes ‘good care’ of some of its most vulnerable children and young people.
Inspectors described front-line workers as ‘passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated’ across education, health and social care who make a ‘positive difference’ to children and their families.
Heather and Mark Evans’ son Jack, six, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2016.
Jack, from Brinnington, is currently at a mainstream school with SEN resources but education has been a challenge for the youngster. He has severe behavioural and anger issues, and struggles with family outings.
His mum Heather says getting the right support in school and at home is an ongoing struggle.
She said they were fortunate to access a good paediatrician at Stepping Hill Hospital who gave them a swift diagnosis.
“His first school couldn’t meet his needs and he was effectively isolated in a cupboard,” says Heather.
“In the end, I was having to go and sit with Jack for an hour a day. That was all they could do for this fiveyear-old. He didn’t have an education for 18 months.”
Batul Dodi’s son Ali was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and global learning delay as a toddler. Ali, now 10, is non-verbal and requires round the clock care.
Bex, a single mum-oftwo from Cheadle, said: “It is difficult getting the support you need if you’re not clued-up. If you don’t have the time to do the research about what services and support are out there it is a real struggle.
“I spent of a lot of time on the internet finding out what help I could get. But it means a lot of your time is spent going to meetings and appointments, and you have to go through all those things before you get the help.”
Stockport Council said it will hold three feedback events for parents and carers following the publication of the report.
Coun Tom McGee, chairman of the Stockport Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We welcome the feedback from the CQC and Ofsted following their recent review of Stockport’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) inspection. The inspection team reflected that we are on a transformational journey in Stockport and acknowledged that many improvements had already been made.
“Whilst the review highlighted some positives including the dedication of front-line workers, we recognise there is much more that needs to be done. Both the Council and CCG are already addressing the areas for improvement and the leadership across the partners are committed to drive the change that are needed so the children and young people and their families are given the right support when they need it.”
Stockport is not the only local authority to face criticism for its SEN support in recent times.
Bury and Oldham’s SEN departments have come under fire for falling short of national standards.
●●Mark Evans with son Jack