Report from Councillor Lucy Smith, Cabinet member for Children and Education Services attached.
Isobel Booler, Director provided an overview of the service deliver for Education, Health and Care Plans. Advising Bury is committed to a programme of transformation and is determined to continue its work on co-production with parents to improve both outcomes and the experiences of children, young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and their families.
There is a service commitment to improve both the Education Health and Care Plan Assessment Process and the Review Process and to ensure that services work in a person-centred way. Although recent progress has been made regarding statutory compliance there is still much to do to improve the EHCP process starting with advice, though parental experience to the plan process and the review process.
Workforce priorities include continuing recruitment, up skilling, and stabilisation of the EHCP team to reduce reliance on agency staff.
The Chair then opened to questions from the Committee.
Councillor Lancaster questioned if there are any more up to date figures on figure 2g, as these only go up to February 2022. Isobel Booler advised that up-to date data can be circulated following the meeting.
Councillor Lancaster outlined that figure 2.3.8 states primary needs of SEND children in Bury and shows substantial anomalies in Bury to national figures; Councillor Lancaster asked if we as a Local Authority underdiagnose Autism and over diagnose Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs. Michael Kemp, responded by explaining part of the reason for this is there are different pathways for diagnosis, there are issues on diagnosing Autism as it is a complex process. We are currently reviewing the neurological pathway with the parent community. We have asked Schools to come back as this may be due to the way Schools document a Childs needs in data form, for instance they may not go back and add the most significant record not just the primary diagnosis.
Councillor Lancaster, referred to the comment on Parents reporting ‘gate keeping’ services in Bury by third sector provides such as first point and family support services who are commissioned by CAMHS and Early Break; Councillor Lancaster asked when both contracts were last reviewed, when will the next review be, has there been any consultation on if parents find the services necessary and if Bury finds their services are necessary, will the contract go out to tender. In response Michael Kemp, Strategic Lead for Inclusion and SEND advised that Commissioning Team in Health are the people who cover this, however Michael Kemp will be doing the contract monitoring with them on these services. 1st will take place on the 08th of July and then will be moving across to do the rest of them sequentionally. Spoke to chair of parent forum who will be part of that contract monitoring going forward as want that lived experience there will be a requirement that reports submitted to us will cover compliments and complaints submitted by parents and carers.
Councillor McBriar referred to document pack page 53, point 2.3.6; he asked if we have Greater Manchester comparative rates to demonstrate Bury having higher rates of EHC Plans in Bury. In addition, there was a request made for the same on page 55 point 3.3.2 and the higher-than-average parental requests. In response Councillor Smith stated that we do not yet hold all comparative data as the deep dive is yet to be done. Michael Kemp advised that the service has began a deep dive audit to look at the theme of requests. He advised he is keen to analyse if those requests go through to an assessment and how to make the form more parent friendly. Michael advised the Committee that we do have access to a comparison site that shows Bury and Rochdale are higher for EHC Plans in the region, this is to be expected because of deprivation indicators.
Councillor Rydeheard requested that in future reports the Greater Manchester figures are included along with national figures for context. A question on Page 50 of the agenda pack (2.3.2) was asked by Councillor Rydeheard; what Bury anticipate the rate of requests for EHC Plans will continue at. In response Isobel Booler advised the previous 12% will increase; this year we are already seeing an increase on the last five months of 45% and the risk register is typically seeing increased demand from the effects of the COVID Pandemic.
A further question was asked regarding page 56, (3.8.1) the complaints dropping is welcome, but the Committee sought assurances that work is taking place to address the decisions and process. In response Councillor Smith advised that complaints about staff attitude have changed for the better so there is a demonstrated culture change with staff.
Helen Chadwick, Trade Union Representative sought assurances on three service areas which appear to lack capacity the impact of which may sometimes need to be picked up in classrooms: Education Psychology, CAMHS and private Nursery Provision. In response Councillor Smith advised that the Council has just commissioned a new service regarding Educational Psychologists to increase the staff. CAMHS we are not the commissioners as Children’s Services.
Councillor Boles stated that we are now seeing improvement but asked when will our focus turn to monitoring implementation. Isobel Booler, Director of Education and Skills assured the committee that this piece of work is being done currently. The work is being completed in co-production with parents and advice with partners.
Councillor Smith questioned; with the 45% increase in care plans and idea to take people centred approach; if you have agency staff, how are they going to build a relationship with families. In response Michael Kemp, advised the permanent staff do face to face work and agency staff do the panel writing.
It was agreed:
1. To thank Councillor Smith, Isobel Booler and Michael Kemp for their update.