How Bristol's SEND service is adapting and improving through health crisis

Children, young people and families have helped develop a blueprint to address failings identified in Bristol City Council’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities provision.
send girl

The city council published its Written Statement of Action this week to address Ofsted/CQC SEND inspection findings which identified serious weaknesses and delays in the service. The council has admitted it may take longer than 18 months to address problem areas and rebuild confidence in the service - acknowledging it is "starting from a low point". During COVID-19, core SEND teams will be using use virtual technology to further applications for Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCNA) and those in need can find support from a new information line for families currently receiving care.

The Ofsted/CQC inspection highlighted areas requiring improvement, including - Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) statutory processes and a lack of awareness of the SEND system and services that were being offered to parents and families in Bristol.

Bristol City Council says it has now ‘significantly’ increased the size of its SEND team to address the EHCP timescales. A ‘roadmap’ has also been produced  to address every area of weakness, working alongside health partners and schools.

Deborah El-Sayed, Director of Transformation the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire commissioning group said: “We appreciate this is a difficult time for many people, and that it may be particularly hard for children and young people with SEND and their families. Community Children’s Health Partnership teams have set up a dedicated telephone advice and information service for families currently receiving care, and we would encourage anyone with questions or concerns to get in touch.” Email or telephone 0117 922 3700.

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The SEND team is is also contacting parents of autistic children/young people who fall into one of these categories:

  • are in the process of a Statutory Education Health Care Needs Assessment
  • are at the draft EHCP stage
  • have been accessing alternative learning provision or hospital education
  • are awaiting a specialist placement

Nick Flaherty, Chairperson of Bristol Parent Carers said it was important that children and their families continued to be at the heart of improvements as part of a co-production process.

He added: “We are pleased that Ofsted have recognised the needs and aspirations of parents and carers of children and young people with SEND in Bristol, and that council and health leaders have recognised the enormity of the scale of improvement required to address the long-standing, serious weaknesses identified by the inspection.

“Continued engagement with Bristol Parent Carers is a key part of the sustained co-production that will place children, young people and their families at the heart of ongoing improvement and development activity.”

“It was important to us to co-produce the Written Statement of Action with parents and carers. It means we now have a roadmap for tackling each of the areas highlighted by Ofsted and the CQC in depth alongside our partners in health and schools, which will help us deliver the improvements we know our families with SEND want to see.”
— Cabinet Lead Member for Education and Skills, Cllr Anna Keen

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