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Suffolk County Council’s cabinet confirms 60 new staff will be recruited as part of SEND reform





The next steps to deal with SEND failings have been revealed by the new service leader, including a recruitment drive for 60 new members of staff.

The measures were announced during yesterday’s county council cabinet meeting and followed a damning report released in late January by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into the council’s delivery of services for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

The report, the third of its kind since 2016, found children with SEND in Suffolk needed urgent help and revealed widespread systemic failings within the service.

New cabinet member for education and SEND, Cllr Andrew Reid has reaffirmed Suffolk County Council’s commitment to ensuring improvements to the SEND service go further and faster
New cabinet member for education and SEND, Cllr Andrew Reid has reaffirmed Suffolk County Council’s commitment to ensuring improvements to the SEND service go further and faster

Cllr Andrew Reid, who took over as cabinet member for SEND and education since the report’s release, promised the extra £4.4 million allocated during the council’s budget-setting meeting nearly two weeks ago would drive the service’s reform.

He said: “There’s a lot of work going on by all partners to make further reform faster and more efficient — there is also a long way to go.”

Council leader Matthew Hicks added: “We fully recognise the report and acknowledge the need to see improvement for our young people, children, and families in Suffolk and, of course, carers as well.”

Cllr Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Education and SEND
Cllr Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Education and SEND

“This is an important step and a very early step as part of our improvement journey which we are absolutely clear needs to go further and faster.”

Central to the council’s new strategy is the delivery of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) within the statutory deadline of 20 weeks.

Currently, in Suffolk, only 21 per cent of EHCPs are delivered within the deadline. Although this is an improvement from the zero per cent delivery rate in June of last year, it is still far below the national average of 49.2 per cent.

Cllr Reid said: “It’s a low margin, I admit, but it is some green shoots of improvement.

“We remain steadfast and determined to improve timeliness, but not at the cost of the quality of the plans we send out — this quality must improve and remain high.”

To address this, the council will be expanding its children and young people’s department from 311 full-time staff, to 357 in the next six months.

The £3.4 million rolling investment includes £1 million into recruiting educational psychologists, over £450,000 to increase the family services team, £140,000 to deal with the demand for needs assessments and nearly £80,000 for a new deputy head of service.

On top of this, a further one-off £1 million investment is being allocated to hire 14 new temporary staff to deal with the backlog in EHCP annual reviews.

Cllr Reid said he remains committed to not only meeting the national average for the delivery of EHCPs, but also going beyond it by this time next year, and before the next Ofsted and the CQC monitoring inspection within 18 months.

The council will also be submitting a new priority action plan to both regulators for review — feedback from the Department for Education is also expected within the next few weeks.

Cllr Reid added: “I welcome this level of scrutiny, we are not complacent in our commitment and we must show improvement, we owe that to our children and young people.”