‘Se­ri­ous weak­nesses’ in spe­cial needs dept

Stockport Express - - News - CHAR­LOTTE DOB­SON stock­por­t­ex­[email protected]­media.co.uk

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

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