Are children’s SEND services working in Staffordshire?
Services managed by Staffordshire County Council came under scrutiny in January 2019 following an OFSTED inspection which deemed that there were significant weaknesses.
On May 1st 2019 the service was deemed fit for purpose.
8 areas of weakness were initially found and in 2022 ofsted inspected the service again saying
“The area has made sufficient progress in addressing six of the significant weaknesses identified at the initial inspection. The area has not made sufficient progress in addressing two of the significant weaknesses”
At the 2019 inspection, inspectors found the following:
Co-production was weak. Parents felt that the local area did not listen to them or their child. The ‘tell it once’ approach was not embedded. The area’s relationships with schools and families were fragile.
This area was deemed not to have made sufficient progress in 2022
At the 2019 inspection, inspectors found the following:
The quality of EHC plans was poor. Health and care workers did not contribute to the process effectively. The targets and outcomes in plans were not aspirational enough. The annual reviews of EHC plans were often not completed on time or did not contribute effectively to the review of the children and young people’s needs or the support and help they received.
This area also had not made sufficient progress in 2022.
One Staffordshire moorlands parent told us that
“My son has been turned down for a care plan for not having enough professional evidence despite the county council being given details for all medical professionals that are involved including those that work for the county council. Having spoken to them even the ones who work for the council none have them have been contacted to give their assessment. The early years forum has also not actioned a care plan for a child who is non verbal and has very limited understanding. I approached Jonathon Price who looked into the issue for me. When I asked him if he would raise the issue with the full council because SEND services don’t work in Staffordshire he told me that they had gotten better”
At a Prosperous Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on November 10th 2022
comments made by Cllr Tina Clements (Tamworth and Watling North) that were described as “frankly despicable, let alone unprofessional.” By a Moorlands Councillor
The words spoken by Cllr Clements were ““… it’s never easy working with Parents. My Daughter is a School Teacher, she says the kids are fine, it’s the Parents that are the problem most of the time.”
This was in response to SCC’s failures regarding the Staffordshire Local Area SEND Re-Visit Inspection and SEND Accelerated Progress Plan Six Month Review.
Staffordshire Moorlands Councillor Jill Salt, who works in education brought theses comments into question and contacted us saying
“From a professional sense what purpose did this anecdote serve to the wider debate regarding Educational Care Health Plans (ECHPs), especially as it formed part of the closing remarks? Secondly, how do you propose to work with parents when Cllr Clements infers that parents are the problem? SEND families suffer greatly when local authorities fail in their statutory duties and the re-inspection report cites this is the case for Staffordshire in some key areas. SEND parent have to fight at every stage to make their voices heard and jump so many hurdles. They are often heard but not listened to, they face battles to prove their children and their families require assistance from the state and this is how our elected representatives view them – as a problem. I am frankly disgusted that these comments were made and saddened that no one in the room sought to have them withdrawn and as such they remain on public record, all councillors in the room are therefore complicit and thus leads us to infer that SCC believe that its SEND parents are a problem. “
Councillor Salt also told us about an earlier meeting where Cllr Alan White stated that children get “…plonked in front of a telly for the first two years of their life…”
Responding to these comments to us Jill Salt said “Whilst I don’t doubt this occurs in a tiny minority of cases by parents who are struggling, using yet another generalisation and presenting it in a debate as fact has led to parents believing that SCC think that the cause of their child’s needs are a result of poor parenting practices. Parents of SEND children are stifled with guilt already, they do not need their unnecessary guilt compounded by those in leadership making crass, sweeping generalisations within the public domain.
What these two statements have demonstrated to the SEND community that I work with is that SCC is uncaring, unkind, lacks compassion and ultimately blames parents for the disabilities that their children face. I would like to take this opportunity to ask SCC to formally correct the public record and publish a statement and an apology to all SEND parents and children in Staffordshire for the recent remarks made. I would like to suggest that all councillors undertake some disability awareness training and seek to understand that those with SEND needs and those linked to them are protected from stereotyping by the Equality Act of 2010. I would like to remind Councillors that their words and attitudes matter. SCC have work to do to bring their SEND provision up to scratch, they also have work to do to challenge attitudes by their elected representatives to SEND children and their families. “
Councillor Salt who is a Staffordshire moorlands district councillor and Biddulph town councillor has recently prepared a report and is helping develop and deliver a strategy to increase Biddulph’s standpoint as a SEND inclusive town