The Audit (again), Being Heard Locally & Nationally
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Writing this SENDspeak was hard work! From my initial involvement in Parent/Carer Participation in late 2012 to now, I have been driven by optimism that Things Can Be Better. Yet eight years on, too many of the stories are the same.
This audit… perhaps, just perhaps, this might be the last iteration of complaints, excuses and promises?
1. The Audit (again)
2. Events for all on the Local Offer
3. Summer Activity Funding 2020
4. Sharing expertise to do better for SEND
5. Be Heard – Richmond & Kingston PCFs
6. Be Heard - the Education Committee, SEND and COVID-19
7. SEND Tribunal Announcement
8. Mr Ian Dodds
1 The Audit (again)
The last SENDspeak began with details of the Independent Auditors Report and Recommendations (EHCPs Richmond) and gave details of the Education & Children’s Services meeting held 24th June. This was one week ago…
I know that Achieving for Children (AfC) have received an enormous amount of feedback from the voluntary sector over the past 5 years on processes that do not work. We all acknowledge funding is a problem. But sometimes this feedback has been met with ‘we’re doing our best’ or ‘we’re better than most local authorities’ and that the AfC Officers are feeling overwhelmed and demotivated. But of course, Parents and Carers feel the same and it is their children we are talking about.
Cllr Humphreys, asking questions at the Committee meeting, had clearly studied the auditor’s report and her final questions reflect that unequal struggle.
To cease that struggle was also at the heart of the SEND Reforms and between 2012 and 2014 (during the Reforms’ development period) many, many MPs and Department for Education folks were recorded saying similar things to Cllr Humphreys’ statement below:
We must ensure that… “Going forward - the journey we have for our families - when they start this process - is not a lengthy campaign - or battle or requires large amounts of private money to be spent.”
Cllr Jo Humphreys, Education & Children’s Services Committee (final questions, at I hr, 31mins, 36 secs)
It’s true that central government did not fund or plan the SEND Reforms adequately, but despite much national and local publicity around this, the final responsibilities are with the leaderships within the Council and their commissioned services; if their Officers feel overwhelmed, then the leadership must pay genuine heed to everyone involved – without making excuses to either their Officers or Parents & Carers.
You can find both the Auditors Report and the formal statement from Richmond PCF (Parent Carer Forum) here.
As with most Council meetings, it was recorded and you can watch the entire meeting, complete with body language, here:
Richmond PCF Statement
…is in the first link above, and Claire Richmond read the statement at the beginning of the Committee meeting (about 6 minutes in).
Claire received several questions about the PCF statement, and confirmed that they had already begun to work with AfC on the action plan. Claire also advocated that AfC seek to invite and involve all the local voluntary support groups in this process.
Should you wish to contribute via Richmond PCF, please e-mail: email@example.com
To my mind Cllr Jo Humphreys, who had clearly read the report thoroughly, did a sterling job of asking Very Good Questions throughout the committee meeting. A brief precis is below:
Cllr Humphreys asks Claire what should have been included and what might have been revealed had the scope of the audit been wider.
Because the timeline for the audit was limited, there are families who have had bad experiences that did not get a chance to air these as a result. There is mention of family’s mistrust of Achieving for Children (AfC) and that this is not surprising. Reasons for this vary from previously bad experiences, to those that had had better experiences but were not anxious due to the content of this audit.
Overall, 103 parents fed back to the auditors, this is less than 7% of total cohort. Less than 5 parents specifically asked not to take part.
What might have been revealed includes the missed opportunity to talk with families whose child was refused an assessment for an EHCP. (the audit only covered those with EHCPs). This was discussed further on in the meeting.
33 mins, 10 secs
Cllr Wilson advocates that we must work with the PCF and other voluntary sector groups, these “are central to the 2014 Reforms”
41 mins, 27 secs
Ian Dodds, Director for Children Services (DCS) presents the report assisted by Anna Chiva, SEND Services, and Charis Penfold, Education Services director.
Cllr Humphreys asked about the quantity of families affected. The report highlights 37 cases that were so serious they had to be escalated in advance of the audit’s completion, however there are much larger numbers affected.
“what is so horrifying” is that 51% of those who had had annual review had not had the amendments made within the 8-week statutory timescale and the majority were 6 weeks late. This resulted in 227 children/young people who stated that this had had a have been direct impact on their outcomes.
Cllr Humphreys asked if AfC recognised that there were far more than 40 children affected. [37 escalations + 3 original complainants]
Cllr Humphreys asked how much been has been known about these problems, how much of this was a surprise when the audit came out? Also, that there are no indicators regarding the annual review process – so how are we [AfC and the Council] scrutinising this? Why wasn’t this picked up in the Peer Review last year?
Ian Dodds agreed a lack of KPIs [key performance indicators] around annual reviews – so this would be a part of improvement plan.
1hr 17min 52 secS
Cllr Humphreys asked her final questions across three areas.
Firstly, page 19s and 45 discuss the challenge around young people ‘not in education’ and asks for the Officers thoughts.
Secondly, Cllr Humphreys that despite all the timescales and deadlines that must be adhered to, she is concerned that we must avoid sacrificing quality.
Thirdly, Cllr Humphreys observes that she is pleased that AfC are to look at the cases that were turned down for assessment (under ‘further work’) and that she supports the PCFs suggestion that AfC increase the scope – the timeframe - so we don’t miss anyone.
Finally (and I personally applaud this also), Cllr Humphreys expressed that she would AfC to show the journey… the journey the Parent/Carer take when they first come into this process. Cllr Humphreys states that “it feels like some Parents have to battel at almost every stage in order to get to the final destination and have to have a lengthy campaign” to achieve this. She is keen to look at what percentage had to do this, including how many had to spend money on private assessments? There appears to be too much battling and not all families have the wherewithal to do this – their children miss out.
“Going forward [we must ensure that] the journey we have for our families - when they start this process - is not a lengthy campaign or battle or requires a large amounts of private money to be spent.”
This last statement is, of course, also at the heart of the SEND Reforms; working with families, placing the children or young person at the centre.
This topic ceases and the committee move on to transport.
2 Events for all on the Local Offer
The events pages are filling again, you can find them here:
And a message from the Local Offer:
“When we went into lock down we took the decision to "hide" all of the regular activities on the Local Offer What's On calendar as everything seems to stop at that time. Now that things have settled a little more and online and alternative offers seem to have established (and grown!) we would like to start getting information back in the calendar to capture all this.
3 Summer Activity Funding 2020
“We are aware that children and young people have not been able to access or participate in short break activities as they usually would during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Due to the limitations that have prevented access to activities recently, Achieving for Children (AfC) are offering children and young people with disabilities who live in Kingston and Richmond Summer Activity Funding. This is to support the cost of summer activities to help children and young people gain the physical activity and social interaction they have been missing.”
4 Sharing expertise to do better for SEND
From AfC, published 26th June 2020
“Developing a multiagency framework for supporting Children and Young People with SEND and their families in Kingston and Richmon.
This event took place on March 11th with support from the Council for Disabled Children (CDC). The intention of the day was to develop a shared understanding of how a shared outcomes framework can support the way we work together across different agencies to support CYP with SEND and their families.”
You can read more here:
5 Be Heard – Richmond & Kingston PCFs
There is now far more information on the Local Offer about Parent Carer Forums (PCFs) for each borough. Both PCFs have Facebook pages and e-mail addresses – and both PCFs appear on the Local Offer under ‘Participation and Involvment’.
I would recommend ‘Liking’ and following their Facebook pages in lieu of their websites. Please read on…
“Richmond Parent Carer Forum are all parents of children or young adults with special educational needs and/or disabilities in Richmond. Members of the PCF are meeting regularly with Achieving for Children.”
The Co-Chairs for Richmond PCF are Claire Richmond and Dave Leeman
“In Kingston there is approximately 4000 [error – this may be nearer 2000?] families that support and care for a young person with a Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND). All these young people need the help and support of a range of services and professionals to ensure their young person can stay healthy and reach their full potential.
To make sure these services understand and meet the needs of the young people and families they serve it is important that they hear from that community. A new group has recently been set up by a small team of parents to make sure that voice is heard.
Kingston Parent Carer Forum (KPCF) is still in its early stages and has been meeting regularly with a wide range of agencies to give feedback on the availability, quality, and effectiveness of services in the borough.
The team of PCF volunteers are really keen to hear from more parents and carers and collect their thoughts in order to pass a wide range of views and experiences back to those that make the decisions about what services our young people will have access to.
We warmly welcome all parents, carers and young people themselves to sign up to our Facebook page and message us with any views or feedback you would like to give. Whilst we cannot, as yet, take up individual cases, we can use all the information you give us to pull together themes to lobby to make services better for everyone.
Even if you have nothing to say at the moment – please do follow our page as we are also starting to put out news and updates on local services, grants and help that is available to our SEND families.
“If you are a SEND family then please do follow this [Facebook] page as we are using this as the main way to put out news and information that can help you and your family.
Stay cool, stay safe!
Chair of Kingston Send Parents Carers Forum”
Please contact Carrie (via Enhanceable our administrative support provider)
T: 07930 212 743
6 Be Heard - the Education Committee, SEND and COVID-19
The Education Committee scrutinises the work of the Department for Education, covering children’s social care, schools, colleges, the early years and higher education. This is one of their current inquiries and we can all contribute written evidence of our experiences…
The impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services
“The inquiry will look at how the outbreak of COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of the education sector and children’s social care system and will scrutinise how the Department for Education is dealing with the situation.
It will examine both short term impacts, such as the effects of school closures and exam cancellations, as well as longer-term implications particularly for the most vulnerable children.”
On Wednesday 24th June, they published a transcript of the oral evidence, thus far. You can read it here:
…and the impact for those with SEND:
Today was another oral session specifically session on the impact of COVID-19 on the education of children and young people with SEND. Contributing were the Disabled Children’s Partnership Campaign, the Council for Disabled Children, IPSEA and Simpson Millar law firm. You can watch the evidence session here:
What can you do?
Anyone can, and is encouraged to, submit written evidence – using the link below, by 21st July 2020. You must read the ‘questions’ they are seeking answers too. Follow the link below:
“The committee wants to hear your views. We welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. You can submit evidence until Tuesday 21 July 2020.”
7 SEND Tribunal Announcement
from SEND Implementation at the Dept. For Education - 18th June 2020
Why this is good news… currently Parents & Carers can only challenge the Education part of an EHCP. This trial allows families to challenge both the Health & Care parts and arguably should have been in place since the beginning of the Reforms in September 2014. This trial is set to challenge – and change - both the law and the processes behind combining Education, Health and Care into one Plan. That is why it is good news – for children and young people in the future. Hopefully, once the trial is complete, the decisions will be binding (rather than non-binding).
“In April 2018, the Department for Education began a national trial to extend the powers of the SEND Tribunal to hear appeals, and make non-binding decisions about, health and social care aspects of Education, Health and Care plans. The trial was due to end on 31 August 2020. However, given the understandable pressures local areas and families are under as a result of coronavirus, the Government believes it is not the right time to introduce any changes to this policy. We have therefore decided to extend the trial until 31 August 2021 and we have today written to Directors of Children’s Services to inform them and provide further details.”
8 Mr Ian Dodds
If Twitter is your thing, you may be interested in following Ian Dodds, the Director of Children’s Services for both Kingston and Richmond. Details are:
“Director of Children’s Services for Kingston and Richmond working with
@AforChildren. Chairperson of Richmond Theatre Trust. All views are my own.”
If you have any questions at all, please ask and I'll do my best to find an answer.
With best wishes, Romany