Inspectors give feedback on special educational needs and disabilities services in Dorset

Government inspectors have published their feedback on services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Dorset.

In February, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) re-visited the area to see whether Dorset County Council and the NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had improved since the previous inspection in 2017. At that time inspectors said:

  • Education, health and social care needed to work better together and take responsibility for making life better for children and young people with SEND
  • Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) needed to be turned around more quickly
  • Agencies needed to address parents’ and carers’ concerns about delays in getting help, not getting enough support or information and not being involved in making decisions about their children
  • More work was needed to check how well services were doing, as well as challenging and supporting organisations to do better

Both the county council and the CCG produced a plan called a written statement of action to outline the improvements that would be made.

During their visit last month, inspectors met with young people, parents/carers, headteachers, and special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs), as well as officers from the council and health services.

Inspectors said that agencies have made sufficient progress in two out of the four areas of weaknesses. Areas where they saw improvements included:

  • The timeliness of assessments for EHC plans is now well above the national average
  • Plans for younger children are generally of a better quality, due to increased multi-agency assessments and more effective joint working
  • The newly appointed designated clinical officer supports partnership working between health services and the council
  • The support and guidance from professionals in portage, the learning disability child & adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) team and family partnership zones, which has helped reduce parents’ anxieties

However, they said that improvement had been too slow in some areas and that more work was needed to tackle delays, quality assurance and ensure better communications with parents. Inspectors said that:

  • Parents are dissatisfied with systems in place to plan and implement services for children
  • Waiting times for a diagnosis is too long – and the time it takes for a child to be seen by a health professional varies across the county
  • Many parents don’t know where to get the help they need, or how to access information and advice

The majority of parents do not have sufficient confidence in leaders

Sarah Parker, executive director for children for the new Dorset Council, joined the county council in March.

She said: “It’s really important that families, children and young people in Dorset feel well supported by our services – especially those living with, or caring for, a child with special educational needs and disabilities.

“We’re pleased that inspectors have recognised some improvements but recognise there’s still a lot more work to do. I’d like to reassure parents that this is a priority for me as we move over to the new council and I want to work with families to make things better.”

Steve Clarke, designated clinical officer (DCO) NHS Dorset CCG said: “Whilst we are pleased that significant progress has been made since the previous visit, we are of course disappointed that we were not able to meet all four areas that were identified for improvement, and are aware that there is still more work to be done. We will continue to work with our local authority colleagues, parents and users to co-design services and deliver an improved experience for everyone involved.”

Agencies will now review their written statement of action and will continue to work with the Department of Education and parents/carers to improve SEND services for children, young people and their families.

You can read inspectors’ feedback here