To consider a report by the Executive Director of People – Children.
The Corporate Parenting Board considered a report by the Corporate Director for Schools and Learning on SEND Annual Report.
Officers informed the Board the number of SEND Looked After Children was around the national average although the service was seeing a demand in EHCP’s and delivering joint planning and training was an area of focus. The report gave an overview of wider developments and referenced the joint SEND strategy which showed the number of Dorset EHCP’s and that 93% had been completed within the statutory 20 weeks.
The Chairman mentioned receiving the report was timely as the report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s investigation into a complaint had just been published. She referred to paragraph 82 where the Ombudsman concluded the Council had failed repeatedly to issue EHCP’s and asked how things would progress going forward.
Officers confirmed they would be looking very carefully at the Ombudsman’s report and ensure the practice and procedures fit in really well in terms of outcomes for children and Looked After Children. The report related to recurring problems and related to young people out of mainstream education. The challenge the Directorate had in terms of restructure was that there was an increasing number of complex children that should be in a place where they might learn and the Council did not have that type of placement.
One member referred to Appendix A the distribution of EHCPs for Looked After Children across the Key Stages – July 2019 and mentioned that for Foundation, KS1 the numbers were fairly low compared with post 16 and suggested that the council must know who the young children were likely to be before they reached education age. He also asked whether the relationship with Public Health was better. The Virtual School Head responded that early screening of young people coming into school in reception and year one was happening in conjunction with the SEN team Education Psychologists to see what their needs were to ensure there was early intervention, screening then took place on a yearly basis. Officers were working with pre-school providers to ensure screening took place as early as possible. The working relationship with Public Health was very efficient.
One member mentioned one of the best ways to achieve a good education was to ensure the children stayed in the same school rather than changing schools and asked if that happened. The Executive Director of People – Children confirmed that officers spent a lot of time ensuring the children stayed in schools.
In answer to a question relating to SEND children outside of the Dorset area being further disadvantaged. The Virtual School Head mentioned a From a Distance Ofsted report published in 2012/13 gave priority to children living out of county to ensure they remained in constant education. The SENCO made sure there was liaison with out of county professionals and ensured any screening took place as quickly as possible.
The Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help asked for a separate briefing meeting to be arranged to include the Chairman, to understand where there was a policy issue. The Virtual School Head undertook to arrange the meeting to be held during the middle of October 2019.
The Chairman mentioned the report referred to what was needed to be done and enquired about the budgetary impact. The Corporate Director for Schools and Learning referred to the chart on page 52 of the report and confirmed the service was demand led and there were no additional funds. The number of children requiring an EHCP was going to increase and the service would need more resource but in reality the service required another £10m per year to start to address historic deficits that had grown. The recent 7% increase in funding helped.
The Chairman asked what was the effect of the high needs block. The Corporate Director for Schools confirmed that this block of money was being stretched in excess of £5m yearly. The pressure comes partly from high numbers of looked after children in specialist placements where they have an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). This pressure is being seen by other counties nationally. The number of EHCPs is increasing and further national government resource is needed to fill the deficit.
One member asked what the NHS were doing to support Looked After Children. The Executive Director of People – Children mentioned there was a significant onus on local government, it was a challenge for local authorities and the Council was in negotiations with the CCG regarding some local plans. The Corporate Parenting Officer stated there was a corporate parenting duty for the Council’s health partners to work with the Council and members could assist in reminding them of their duty when they were in contact with them.
Members wanted to ensure there was a focus within each year group on youngsters with an EHCP and whether going forward social workers should be alerted and considered the Virtual School Head carry out an urgent review to ensure EHCP’s were being delivered.
1. That the Virtual School Head arrange a meeting with the Chairman, Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help and relevant officers to discuss where there was a policy issue during the middle of October 2019.
2. That the Virtual School Head undertake an urgent review to ensure EHCP’s were being delivered and report back to the Board at its meeting on the 14 November 2019.