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Suffolk County Council apologises for 'letting down' children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) after damning independent review




A frank apology has been issued by Suffolk County Council over failings in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services, after a damning report produced from an independent review.

Lincolnshire County Council inspected the county's struggling service following a swathe of parent comments over problems in the system.

The report, published this afternoon following 29 virtual meetings with families, children and industry staff, concluded that weaknesses existed in a host of areas and made nine recommendations for future improvement.

A frank apology has been issued by Suffolk County Council over failings in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services, after a damning report produced from an independent review. Picture: iStock
A frank apology has been issued by Suffolk County Council over failings in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services, after a damning report produced from an independent review. Picture: iStock

The authority this afternoon issued a stark apology to families let down.

"The review has found that we must change what we are doing in a number of areas," the authority wrote in an open letter penned to parents.

"We accept without reservation the findings of the review and are grateful to the Lincolnshire team for their attention to detail, professionalism and advice.

"We are sorry for the difficulties that some families have experienced as a result of how we have been doing things.

"We recognise that we have let down some children and young people as certain aspects of our services have simply not been good enough."

Measures in the action plan, which will begin this week, include better co-production on developing education health and care plans (EHCPS) - documents with specific measures for SEND youngsters required in their education.

It also includes work to identify gaps in knowledge and skills in the team, collate a review of policies in line with the code of practice, address gaps in sharing of information with health service colleagues and robust annual review processes - particularly as youngsters transition from one phase of education to another.

A new partnership will also be launched with Impower, a specialist organisation which has worked with 15 other local authorities nationwide on improving SEND provision.

Conservative cabinet member for education, Rachel Hood, said: "As we anticipated, the report has shown that SEND services in Suffolk are not good enough, and I want to apologise to those children and young people we have let down.

Conservative cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council, Rachel Hood. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Conservative cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council, Rachel Hood. Picture: Suffolk County Council

“I want to be clear that this report does not cover all SEND services and many children or young people who have specialist educational needs in Suffolk are very well served, but significant changes must be made following this hard-hitting report.

“We must learn from this report and implement fundamental change as quickly as we can.”

Jack Abbott, former Labour group spokesman for education at Suffolk County Council who is now an education campaigner, said: "This is a damning report, but its findings will come as little surprise to the families who have been desperately seeking change for years. It is they who have had to endure long, exhausting battles just to get the support they need.

“Let’s not forget either that Suffolk County Council limited the scope of this report - the criticisms highlighted here only reflect part of the systemic problems that exist. Yes, communication with families is important, but the quality and accessibility of provision is critical. If Suffolk County Council really wants to drive improvements, then they will finally listen to families and conduct a full investigation."

More to follow.

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