By Grainne Cuffe
Lambeth has reduced the number of children and young people with special educational needs being excluded and getting custodial sentences, according to a new report.
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected the service in January to see how well the borough was implementing changes introduced in the Children’s and Families Act 2014.
Inspectors spoke to children and young people with SEND, parents and carers, local authority and NHS officers, as well as leaders, staff and governors.
In their report they hailed local leadership for implementing the changes “in a way which makes a positive difference to the experiences and outcomes of children and young people with SEND in Lambeth”.
“Leaders have taken time to understand the needs and characteristics of the local area.
“Leaders seek and use information from parents and the local community well to measure the impact of their actions and set priorities when reviewing their strategy.
“Leaders ensure that good practice in assessing and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND is shared well,” according to the report.
Strengths included the work of speech and language therapists and school nurses in identifying and addressing the needs of young people with SEND.
“School nurses use a health questionnaire to identify health, social and emotional needs for pupils who have moved from primary to secondary school.
“As a result of this work, school nurses are identifying a high number of pupils experiencing emotional difficulties.
“This means that these pupils are now receiving help earlier to support them and prevent a deterioration in their emotional well-being,” it said.
Speech and language therapy in the youth offending service has “improved and is now well established” – 70 per cent of young people within the service have been identified as having previously unmet needs.
Children at risk of criminal exploitation are supported by a local charity to prevent gang involvement.
“Leaders have reduced school exclusions for pupils with SEND in recent years.
“They also make sure that alternative arrangements for pupils with SEND, which are put in place by providers, are suitable,” according to the report.
There has also been a drop in young people receiving custodial sentences in the borough “many of whom” have SEND.
On the other hand, although the report said Lambeth had “sharpened checks” on EHC plans over the last two years, reviews of the plans need to be more consistent.
The report said more needed to be done to help young people with SEND prepare for adulthood.
“As a result, some young people, particularly those not eligible for adult care services, are not fulfilling their potential.
“Parents of some young people over 16 do not know what is to come next for their child after college and do not know where to seek advice,” according to the report.
Inspectors also noted that there was “no transition pathway for young people with complex health needs who are receiving care from the community children’s nursing team as they move to the care of primary health care teams, including the GP”.
They also said a “significant” number of parents were not sure how well professionals understood their children’s needs.
“Some are concerned about the negative impact they think this has on their child’s social and emotional development,” according to the report.
Many children who don’t go to pre-schools are not having their needs identified early enough.
“As a result, too many of these children are starting school with unidentified needs and are not ready for school.
“Almost one in every five children in Lambeth currently has not accessed any pre-school provision,” according to the report.
Although staff in schools and colleges have been trained to identify special needs, leaders do not know how effective it’s been.
Waiting times for autism assessments are long and progress slow on improving the situation.
Jennifer Brathwaite, Lambeth’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “This was a demanding and wide-ranging inspection, so it is really positive to note the very many strengths identified by inspectors. Importantly too, they have not required Lambeth to produce a written statement of action.
“The report is helpful moreover in highlighting a number of important areas for development, most of which reflected our own self-evaluation.
“Improving services in this area is a priority for all of us.
“This report bears excellent testimony to the work we have done, including the high-quality partnerships (with parents and carers, with schools and with voluntary and statutory sector agencies) that are in place across Lambeth to support children with SEND.”
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