The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman LGSCO today published a report criticising Richmond Council and Achieving for Children for not effectively supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Ian Dodds,  Director of Children’s Services for Richmond Council, said:

“Providing high quality special educational needs and disability services and appropriate support for the children and families who need them is a number one priority for Richmond Council and Achieving for Children.

“Implementation of the 2014 SEND Reforms has been an enormous challenge for all local councils, particularly in a context of increasing need for support and raised expectations without adequate government funding to support their effective delivery to all the children and families who need them. 

“The LGSCO report is accepted in full and clearly shows that there were significant failings for some children and young people between 2016 and 2017.  This does not reflect what I want to see in place for every child and young person. It does show that Richmond Council and Achieving for Children were slow to recognise the increased demands of the 2014 Act and our sincerest apologies have been extended to the families of the children and young people the Ombudsman has reported on.

“Since the period of the Ombudsman’s investigations, much has been achieved and significant investment has been made locally. There is new leadership in place and a renewed commitment to continuous improvement of local SEND services through our SEND Partnership Board. Other improvements include:

Doubling the resource within our SEND service so that there is a large and stable team of 40 officers with a new senior, experienced leader, working hard to ensure that each Education, Health and Care assessment and subsequent Plan results in effective and individually-tailored services to meet the needs of each child and young person.

Improving the training, support and supervision of SEND team members, including investing in a renewed quality assurance process across education, health and care partners, so that we evaluate and improve current practice, including systematically gathering feedback from parents and carers.

Securing external scrutiny to complement our local quality assurance processes through a peer challenge led by the Local Government Association in October 2019, which involved a team of experts examining our practice and our systems. The South West Local Audit Partnership are also completing a programme of external audit to provide further assurance of our provision and practice as recommended by the Ombudsman.

Making significant efforts to listen to the voices of parents, carers and young people through a new Parent Panel, as well as supporting the work to form a new Parent-Carer Forum. As a result, we are beginning to capture the views of a wider range of parents, carers and young people. Parents and young people are also represented on our SEND Partnership Board. 

“The proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and I believe that our additional investment is already making a difference. 95% of our Education, Health and Care Plans are completed within the 20-week deadline, and are increasingly of a good quality, compared to 60% nationally. In addition, early indications from the feedback we now systematically collect from parents and carers  shows that they the large majority have confidence in our assessment process and in the quality of the final Education, Health and Care Plan for their child. The progress and attainment of children with SEND in Richmond remains strong and is consistently above national benchmarks. There is more work to do, though, and I am committed to working with our statutory and voluntary partners and, importantly, with our new Parent-Carer Forum to ensure further improvement.”

 Download the full Ombudsman report  (opens a pdf)