SEND Inspections 2017 – What You Need To Know
The Law Of… Ensuring Local Authorities Meet SEND Requirements
In May 2016, OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) started a new type of joint inspection. The aim was to hold Local Authorities (LAs) to account and champion the rights of children and young people following the implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014.
Gregg Burrough, Solicitor in Education Law and Community Care, takes a look at the findings of this inspection and what it means for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).
How Do SEND Inspections Work?
The Children and Families Act implemented Education, Health and Care Plans, and became law in September 2014.
Under the local area SEND inspection framework, inspectors started reviewing how LAs were meeting their responsibilities to children and young people (from birth to the age of 25) who have special educational needs or disabilities – or both.
Under the Children and Families Act 2014, the framework relating to inspections considers the duties a LA owes to children and young people with SEND. This includes the Clinical Commissioning Group, the SEN department, and social work departments within your LA.
A LA is informed 5 days before the joint OFSTED inspection is due to take place. Families of children with SEN are encouraged to share their experiences of the LA's SEN provision and this could, for example, be through meetings between the LA and families affected by the inspection.
Inspections last 5 days and consider the education, health, and social care provisions in your LA. During this period, meetings are also held with the respective Heads of Service and children’s files are also considered.
What Happens During The SEND Inspections?
The aim of the inspections is to:
- Look at the effectiveness of the Local Offer, which sets out the support and provisions provided in your local area – information about the Local Offer should be on your LA's website
- Consider how effective and accessible information about the services offered is for children, young people, and parents
- Review how early SEND in children and young people is identified as well as the assessment process the LA has in place to identify who might need an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
LAs will also be assessed on the content within certain sections of their EHCPs, how they provide the support that is outlined in the Plans, and how well the plans are reviewed.
What Happens After The Inspections?
At the end of the process, a joint inspection outcome letter is sent to the respective Heads of Service of the departments that have been assessed.
The letter explains the main findings and highlights the strengths of the LA, and – if necessary – will make recommendations for improvements.
What Have They Shown So Far?
Some LAs have been criticised for their failure to implement changes effectively.
In July 2016, the OFSTED's inspection letters were first published online and around 24 LAs have currently been inspected.
The results have been varied, but the inspections have revealed some major failings. Whilst there have been some positive findings, numerous LAs have been exposed as being unable to deliver anything near the level of support and provision envisaged by the Children and Families Act.
"Some LAs, for example, have been ordered to produce a Written Statement of Action because of the significant areas of weakness in their practice", Gregg explains. "This is extremely concerning."
"It's a good idea to find out whether your LA has been inspected and what the outcome of was."
How Can Legal Assistance Help Me?
Following the OFSTED inspection reports, it's become clear that a significant number of LAs are unable to effectively implement the system designed for EHCPs and EHC Needs Assessments (EHCNAs).
This means that children or young people with SEND might be missing out on crucial support that they need.
If you have any concerns or need some advice, our dedicated team of specialist Education advisors and solicitors are on hand to help and can offer you a range of services at affordable prices, depending on your needs.