Existing weaknesses in SEND system ‘exacerbated by pandemic’, Ofsted warns

17th June, 2021 9:56 am

Long standing problems in support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) “have been made even worse” by the Covid-19 crisis, Ofsted has said.

Lack of access to education, health and care support and inconsistencies in identifying SEND have been exacerbated by the pandemic and lockdowns, the inspectorate has revealed.

Cases of children mistakenly being identified as having SEND have risen and failures in joined up commissioning across health, education and care have worsened. An increasing lack of clarity among services on who has responsibility and accountability for SEND support, is another area of concern. The findings have emerged in analysis of Ofsted joint visits with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to local authorities from autumn 2020 to spring 2021.

A particular concern is a lack of access to specialist services, including physiotherapy and speech and language support. Ofsted said that by spring this year “families were exhausted, even despairing” over the lack of access to services.
The inspectorate is calling for “a greater sense of joint responsibility between partners in a local area, clearer accountability for different organisations within local systems, and greater coordination of universal, target and specialist local services so children get the right support at the right time”. It also urges services to improve access to support and accuracy in identifying SEND and specialist support needed.

“Many local area leaders and practitioners have gone above and beyond to support children and young people with SEND and their families during this challenging time,” said Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman.
“However, our report shows that children and young people were not always getting the education and care they needed, even before the pandemic.

“As the damaging effects of the pandemic on children and young people with SEND become clear, so too does the need to ensure that we are all playing our role in supporting them.

“We will work closely with CQC to develop a new framework to support improvement in the way education, health and care services work together to get the best possible outcomes for children.”

CQC deputy chief inspector of primary medical services and integrated care Victoria Watkins said that lack of access to physiotherapy had left some children “immobile and sometimes in pain”.

She added: “In some cases, a lack of speech and language therapy, or communication devices being unavailable, left them unable to communicate properly. Social care and health-funded respite provision for families had also not been available in many areas.

“Parents and carers told us of their frustration, exhaustion and sometimes of their despair — particularly as some children could not attend school because their health or personal care needs could not be met.

“This disruption to service provision had a serious impact on families.”

Source: Children & Young People Now

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