Inspectors praise SEND support for vulnerable groups in Solihull

By Joe Lepper

| 05 December 2017

Inspectors have praised the quality of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Solihull, including unaccompanied asylum seekers and looked-after children.

Inspectors said looked-after children in Solihull receive a swift and thorough assessments of their health needs. Picture: Solihull Council

A joint inspection team from Ofsted and health watchdog the Care Quality Commission said that looked-after children in the area receive swift and thorough assessments of their health needs.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) were also found to be assessed quickly, with inspectors particularly impressed with the focus on early identification of mental health problems caused by trauma.

They also found that the youth offending services worked well with health professionals to support the health needs of young offenders.

"Children and young people who are looked-after in Solihull receive timely, comprehensive and meaningful initial and review health assessments," states a letter from the inspectorates to Solihull Council's children's services and Solhull clinical commissioning group.

The letter adds that UASC "have their needs assessed quickly" ensuring the early identification of previously unidentified and unmet needs, including emotional and physical trauma.

Other areas of praise include swift progress since the start of the year to implement SEN reforms, including ensuring that all children with an SEN statement are assessed and transferred to the new system of education, health and care plans (EHC).

However, the inspection team said there is a need for improvements in how families are involved in shaping local SEN services.

They said they are particularly concerned that links between parents and local decision makers have broken down since a previous parent and carer forum disbanded.

"Systems for consulting with parents and strategic co-production of plans to improve local services are underdeveloped," the letter states.

"Professionals from the local area have tried to keep parents involved in planning provision in Solihull. However, the previous parent carer forum disbanded and this has hindered communication.

"Parents can raise concerns and, at times, they are communicated with effectively. However, a number of parents told inspectors that they are unable to influence improvements and some believe that their concerns have not been addressed."

The school experience of many SEN children and those with disabilities in Solihull was also criticised by inspectors. They said too many do not attend school on a full-time basis and levels of truancy and exclusions "are too high".

They also found a lack of suitable school places for pupils with autism and too many children waiting for assessment by an occupational therapist.

In addition, inspectors found the quality of EHC plans was variable, with some lacking key information about health and care needs.

A spokesman for Solihull Council said: "We were pleased the inspectors recognised how good our services are to these vulnerable children and families.

"We know there is more work we need to do in the future to continue to offer the services these children, young people and families need.

"In particular we know we need to further engage more effectively with parents to ensure the services we offer to them and their children meet their needs, now and in the future"

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