An inspection report by Ofsted and health watchdog the Care Quality Commission, based on a visit to Hull SEND services in October, reveals evidence of poor strategic leadership, too little involvement of families in decision-making, poor self-evaluation and a lack of an effective strategy to jointly commission services.
Both Hull City Council and NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have been tasked with submitting an action plan to Ofsted to tackle failings identified in the report.
Outlining their concerns in a letter to the council and the CCG, inspectors said their weak strategy had been a barrier to the effective implementation of the disability and special educational needs reforms in Hull as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014.
"As a result, the reforms have had too little impact on the local area's arrangements for identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children and young people who have SEN and or disabilities. This is unacceptable," the letter said.
Among the main findings included in the report were indicators that young people's needs were not being met due to increasing rates of fixed-term and permanent exclusion for SEND children and young people.
Inspectors also found increasing levels of absence and persistent absence, a year-on-year increase in the number of SEND children electively home educated and a rise in appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
"Local leaders cannot be sure that they are commissioning the right services for children, young people and families. This is because there is no detailed or comprehensive analysis of children, young people and families' needs," the inspectors' letter said.
The report praised some education, health and social care services which were commissioned in response to children and young people's identified needs.
However, inspectors said there is no "robust strategy" for jointly commissioning services across education, health and social care in Hull.
"This significant weakness has a profound impact on the effectiveness of the local area in improving outcomes for children and young people who have SEN and or disabilities," the letter states.
A further contributing factor, it added, were changes in the leadership of health professionals that had led to no designated clinical officer or dedicated medical officer being in post. This was having a "negative impact" on the development of services for SEND children, inspectors said.
Despite the concerns raised in the report, inspectors said that children and young people they visited in schools and settings in Hull reported they felt safe and well supported.
There was also a strong commitment from parents and carers to work with local area leaders and the support provided to families from charity KIDS was valued by families.
The report said there was a significant improvement in the proportion of education, health and care (EHC) plans issued within the 20-week timescale and the area was on track to meet the deadline for SEN statements to be converted to EHC plans by March 2018.
Councillor Phil Webster, portfolio holder for learning, skills and safeguarding children, said the council had taken on board the findings of the report and would work with Hull CCG to improve services and outcomes.
"It is encouraging to see areas of strengths, especially highlighting the strong commitment and the efforts of frontline staff to support local families and improve the lives of children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities," he said.