CHILDREN with special educational needs and disabilities are being failed by Bury services, reveals a damning report.

And a charity which supports deaf children says families will be ‘appalled’ to read the conclusions of a recent joint inspection carried out by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

Inspector Jonathan Jones' report states: “Children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities and their families have been let down.”

And it adds that there is a ‘worrying degree of complacency’ by service providers in the borough due to a perception that that children and young people in Bury do well and a there was found to be a ‘misplaced attitude’ that provision is good.

Mr Jones notes that the service has ‘significant areas of weakness’ and says the Bury Council’s and the Clinical Commissioning Group’s service fails to achieve its aims.

He has demanded a written statement of action from Karen Dolton, Bury Council’s interim director of children’s services, to explain how the borough plans to address the eight areas of significant weakness which were identified.

Pat Jones-Greenhalgh, Bury Council’s interim chief executive, has issued a statement from the council and the CCG accepting the criticisms of the report but stressing that it also highlights good examples of front-line staff and team as well as dedicated and passionate professionals.

The organisations must improve joined-up working to ensure agencies collaborate properly, information must be shared properly between health services and more must be done to improve awareness of what is available to parents and carers in Bury.

Criticism also included key health practitioners being ignorant of education, health and care plans and joint commissioning arrangements were described as ‘defective’.

The absence of a strategic leader was identified, as was a lack of understanding about co-production, where parents and carers work with professionals.

The report also reveals that the identification of special educational needs and/or disabilities at school level is ‘inaccurate and inconsistent’.

Jess Reeves, campaigns manager at the National Deaf Children’s Society, wants the council to take immediate action to ensure 211 deaf children in Bury get the support they need.

She said: “This is by far the most damning report into SEND services that I have ever read. Families across Bury will be appalled to hear how badly they are being let down.”

The report does praise aspects of the council’s provision, particularly its education, health and care plans, which are legal documents setting out what extra support people with SEND requirements need up to the age of 25.

Bury Council’s EHC plans are timely and written to a good standard and Mr Jones praised the ‘sterling work’ of the team responsible.

Children were also found to be receiving good care from health services and can access the provision quickly. This was something the borough can be proud of, says the report.

Mr Jones and his team found children with special needs enjoyed living in Bury and they felt safe.

But Mr Jones stresses the internal evaluation lacks rigour and there is an absence of strategy.

"These children and young people have not had a champion for their cause at the highest strategic level," he states.

According to Mr Jones: “It is only with the arrival of a number of newly appointed leaders that there is less delusion about the reality of the situation. Not all leaders share the accurate view that these new leaders have. This has hindered the pace of reform.”

The government’s code of practice states that services should work with families of SEND children and young people when planning and making decisions but inspectors say they did not see a single example of this.

A lack of ‘joined-up thinking’ was identified and families stated they repeatedly had to retell their stories. The one exception to this was the health visitor, who co-ordinated appointments to avoid this.

Awareness of SEND provision in the borough was found to be low. The report said: “The local offer in Bury fails to achieve what it is meant to be.”

Bury has a higher than average proportion of under 25s needing SEND support or a specific area of service. This is due to inaccurate identification of SEND by schools, which has also led to a high number of school exclusions.

The systems used to share information between services were branded ‘antiquated and inefficient’. In addition, there is no clear process for organisations like schools and the NHS, to use.

The report states that most parents do not feel their child’s need were identified early and a significant number felt that needs were only identified after constant fighting and pushing.

The report reveals one parent said: “We have to fight for our child’s rights.”

Ms Jones-Greenhalgh said: “We accept the criticisms that there are serious shortcomings in the way health, education and social care services have worked together, and that we need to put families at the heart of the process.

“The council and the CCG had already identified some of the main shortcomings found in the inspection, and had commissioned an external review of current arrangements and services. This review will be central in drawing up a formal plan of action to address the areas of weakness identified by the inspection.

“Services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities are among our top priorities. Working with the CCG, I am absolutely determined to get our procedures right and improve the way we plan and provide those services.”

Stuart North, chief officer for NHS Bury CCG, added: “We welcome the review of SEND services and recognise the importance of partnership working to deliver the changes.

“While there is lots of good practice happening in Bury, there are improvements that must be made to ensure that the experience of children, young people and their families, who access these vital services, is a positive one.”

‘Failings are down to cuts’ says society

THE National Deaf Children’s Society has attributed failings in special educational needs to budget cuts, something Bury Council ‘refutes’. 
The joint report by the CQC and Ofsted, published on Monday, detailed several ways in which the service provided by the council and Bury Clinical Commissioning Group needed to improve. 
Jess Reeves of the NDCS called the report ‘damning’ and said: “It’s clear from this report that deaf children in Bury need more support, not less – and yet the council is planning huge cuts to what remains of local SEND services. This includes the specialist education support service which deaf children, young people and their families rely on.”
“My question to council leaders is very simple: how can you justify these cuts, when you are already failing some of the most vulnerable children in Bury?”
A Bury council spokesman said: “We absolutely refute claims by the NDCS that there has been ‘huge cuts’ in services for deaf children in Bury.
“In April, we deleted one post from the sensory impairment team, a 0.8 Full Time Equivalent, which has been vacant since 2015, and which we have been unable to fill due to the level of social worker qualifications needed. This equates to £29,400 from an overall budget of £927,950. There has been no impact to the service from this cut due to the post already being vacant.
“We also have 1.5 FTE assistant posts and 1.3 FTE teacher for the deaf post currently vacant. An ongoing service review will determine what will happen to these posts – this will be carried out in consultation with children and their families, and no decisions have yet been made.
“What is 100 per cent accurate is that Bury, in common with councils across the country, has cut and is continuing to cut its budget due to Government reductions in our funding: in Bury’s case, to the tune of around £100 million over a decade. We will continue to review all council services to ensure we make the best use of our decreasing budgets to support our most vulnerable children and adults.”