Somerset’s SEND services set out blueprint for improvement

Joint release from Somerset County Council and NHS Somerset CCG

Services for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) and their families in Somerset reached an important milestone this week, with the publication of a plan for rapid improvement.

During an assessment earlier this year on how effectively SEND services were supporting families and children in Somerset, inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education, (Ofsted) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found a number of areas requiring significant improvement. They set Somerset County Council and NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group the task of working closely with children and young people, their parent carers and professionals to draw up a plan for improving each of these areas and the culture and practices which underpin them.

The plan sets out a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) that outlines the steps that will be taken across the next 18-24 months. At its centre is the SEND 0-25 Charter which states the commitment for partners working effectively together and putting parent carers and children at the heart of service planning and new service design to ensure all families get the services they need.

All partners (SCC, NHS and Schools) have committed to:

  • Work more closely with children and young people with SEND and their families to understand and learn from their experiences as we develop strategies to improve the area.
  • Further improve leadership capacity across services in Somerset to provide effective support to children with SEND.
  • Continue to strengthen and embed partnership working across Education, the NHS, Public Health and Social Care.
  • Improve joint commissioning arrangements between Somerset County Council and the NHS, improving leaders’ ability to ensure they are meeting area needs as well as improving outcomes and achieving cost efficiencies.
  • Develop our pathway for children and young people with autistic spectrum disorder to address the poor service too many families are receiving.
  • Extend inclusive practice in schools across the local area and in turn reduce exclusion rates which currently mean too many children and young people are not accessing education.
  • Improve the outcomes for all children with SEND, through ensuring effective identification of needs and the right support to make a difference to children.
  • Ensure that multi-professional assessment and planning required for Education, Health and Care Plans is carried out more swiftly.
  • Ensure that the quality of professional input for Education, Health and Care Plans is at a consistently high level.

The WSoA was approved by inspectors this week.

“We know we have a lot of progress to make to ensure we are providing services that meet the needs of all children, young people and families in Somerset, and the Written Statement of Action is an important milestone.   It’s our blueprint for improvement,” said Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services.

“The inspection process was, as of course it always should be, extremely challenging for all partners. Together we will now use our Written Statement of Action to build on the progress inspectors recognised had been made before the March inspection and make the improvements that are needed.”

James Rimmer, Chief Executive of NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “It’s vital that parents and young people are at the centre of the way services are planned – their voices must be heard loud and clear and our Written Statement of Action aims to ensure this is embedded in our culture and practices.

“We also need to make sure as partners in service provision that we learn from the past and move forward together as one team across health, the Council and education for families in Somerset.”

Extensive work to develop the Written Statement of Action has included a parents’ survey which received 750+ responses, as well as meetings with parents and The Unstoppables, a group which represents young people, 200+ virtual engagement sessions, and comprehensive consultation with staff and schools across Somerset.

Read and download the statement on Somerset’s Local Offer website