SEND support for care leavers, Cornwall

Cornwall was the first area in England to introduce health passports to help care leavers keep their medical history at hand.

  • Personal advisers meet with education providers on a termly basis to monitor the educational progress of care leavers.
  • Cornwall has one of the highest rates of young people with SEND in education or employment.


According to Ofsted and health watchdog the Care Quality Commission, Cornwall County Council is a "national leader" in supporting care leavers with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

A report published in August 2017 found that senior managers in the area were "ambitious" in wanting to improve the lives of children and young people with special educational needs, with a number of initiatives.

David Roose, head of services for children in care and care leavers in Cornwall, says service standards for care leavers have been well established for some time, providing a good base on which to support those among them with additional needs.

"We have a very strong care leaver service generally. We get very good outcomes for care leavers," Roose says. Ofsted recognises our pathway planning as being strong. We are one of the two top councils in terms of rates of young people with SEND in education, training or employment, and we are getting people into the right accommodation. There is a general backdrop of the council having a strong focus on care leavers.

"Care leavers in some ways are a barometer for the health of our services - if we can provide good quality services for the most vulnerable it is a very good start."

One initiative in Cornwall singled out for praise by inspectors is the health passport scheme.

Commissioned by NHS Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, the heath passport was developed as an aid for young people leaving care to obtain healthcare services including registering with a GP.

"The passports enable young people to have their health records easily available to them - young people can have difficulties with health records if they have to move," Roose says.

Meanwhile, all personal advisers have received joint training with the adult services transitions workers and there is a strong relationship between the two services, with each having a clear knowledge of their roles and responsibilities.

According to Roose, one example of strong joint working was the support provided for a young person with SEND who was on an education, health and care plan - living in a children's home in the care of the local authority.

"There were concerns about how he would manage when he left care because of his needs," Roose says.

"Leaving care services, in conjunction with adult social care service, decided just before his 18th birthday to move him into his own flat with 24-hour support."

Arrangements were made for him to continue with college courses and his progress was monitored - like all care leavers - on a termly basis, via a traffic light system - green if they are doing well, amber if there are some concerns, and red if they are not attending or decisions have to be made about their future.

"In this particular case there was a difficulty early on," Roose says.

"The college came in and met with the personal adviser, had some discussions, and he changed courses," Roose says.

"The personal advisers also became aware of some issues around transport. Those changes kept him in college. Those termly meetings and the traffic light system help to focus everyone's minds on a group of vulnerable young people that at times you can easily not focus on."

The council also actively works to support young people with SEND in foster care to stay in their placement beyond the age of 21 offered under the government's Staying Put initiative.

"We talk to foster carers about registering them as ‘Shared Lives' providers - effectively as an adult social care provider - so the young person can stay with them longer.


Roose says that the council is not currently required by government to record outcomes for care leavers.

The records it does have show that in 2017, 75 per cent of care leavers were in education, training or employment - the joint highest in the country, running at the same level in 2018.

Meanwhile, in 2017, 96 per cent of care leavers were in suitable accommodation.

Roose says early work to support care leavers with SEND is also saving the council money in the long-term.

"If you can get the planning right early on, you are not making decisions later on that cost more."

This article is part of CYP Now's special report on special educational needs and disabilities. Click here for more

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