A case study in evaluating sufficiency and quality of SEND provision in a local authority

We were commissioned to consider the sufficiency and the quality of special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision for children and young people within the context of current expenditure on out-of-authority provision and examine what works in the local area to prevent placements being made outside the local authority. This involved quantifying the available provision across local schools and colleges, the use of out of authority provision (outside the geographical area) and the use of non-maintained and independent provision and other resources (within the geographical boundary). The project considered the quality of the provision from the viewpoint of numerous stakeholders and the gaps in provision.

The project began in late June 2014 and ran until June 2015. Consultation was carried out with parents and carers; education, health and social care staff, including early years provision, school and post 16 and post 19 education. This included children's social care and adult services, maintained mainstream and special schools and non-maintained independent special schools.

The project coincided with the implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014. The legislation creates major changes to special educational needs legislation with the introduction of education, health and care plans (EHC plans) replacing statements of special educational need and enabling personal budgets to be created for those families who request one in lieu of services and extending the personalisation agenda. The new legislation was also intended to address the well documented issues relating to transition to adulthood for young people with special educational needs by increasing the age limit up to 25 years for those young people still in education or in supported internships. For many years young people and their families had reported that transition to adulthood was a time when services dropped away and many young people found it difficult to continue their education if they could not make the adjustments required to attend mainstream colleges. This was particularly difficult for some young people when the full-time college courses involved attendance for three days a week and families faced the uncertainty of what the young person would do on the other days.

The transformation of SEND requires local authorities to make cultural changes. These include working in partnership with parents and carers; multi-agency working and jointly commissioning those services and provision that would meet the needs identified in the EHC plan. This might include therapy services, equipment and transport that could be provided through health or social care.

The local authority recognised the need to continue to develop the market of providers to support young people into meaningful activities, employment, leisure and volunteering opportunities. This may require the local authority to create the infrastructure that will lead to businesses or community enterprises to enter the market as personal budgets become more widely available and the services that have been traditionally provided by the state are no longer required. Personalisation can reduce cost, reduce reliance on services and create independence. The purpose of the project was to consider the potential gaps in special educational needs provision, the population trends that will impact on the future needs of children and young people in the area and to make recommendations about investment that will meet the future needs of the population and reduce out-of-authority placements.

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