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SEND services could see extra money as Cllr Andrew Reid reiterates apology for young girl’s 18 months of lost education

Suffolk’s SEND leader has shared plans for extra money as apologies were reiterated after a young girl lost 18 months of education.

Members of the county council’s audit committee met this morning to discuss plans to deliver better services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Councillors considered a public report published in April by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) which found delays in delivering a young girl’s education, health and care plan (EHCP), but also a refusal to provide her with alternative educational provisions.

Cllr Reid has shared plans for extra money. Picture: SCC/Jason Noble
Cllr Reid has shared plans for extra money. Picture: SCC/Jason Noble

The ‘concerning and clearly unacceptable’ errors resulted in the young girl being out of education for 18 months and the council being told to issue an apology and pay £8,300 to the family.

Cllr Andrew Reid, the cabinet member for Education and SEND, attended the meeting and reiterated his apologies, stressing the council’s actions hadn’t been good enough.

He said: “I would like to reiterate our sincere apologies to the mother and the daughter about the anxiety and distress it caused.

“We fully accept the findings within the notice, support the recommendations, and have acted upon them.”

Apologies were also shared by chairwoman Cllr Joanna Spicer on behalf of the committee.

Members also discussed the council’s SEND governance update which set out how the council and local Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) would be updated on the progress of the SEND Improvement Board.

The Improvement Board was set up as part of the council’s priority action plan resulting from January’s Ofsted/CQC report which found ‘widespread and/or systemic failings’ in the way the the local authority delivers its SEND services.

The new system will not only include a report to be presented to cabinet about the outcomes of the Department of Education and Ofsted/CQC monitoring visits and inspections, but also an annual report by the recently appointed independent chair of the SEND Improvement Board, Kathryn Boulton.

The system will also maintain the quarterly updates from Cllr Reid and the children and young people’s services.

Cllr Reid said this would allow the council to understand and drive improvement in the experiences of children and their families.

He added: “All of this is about creating a resilient and sustainable improvement in the quality and timeliness of our work.”

Also revealed by Cllr Reid were plans to ask cabinet to allocate extra money for SEND services, although information on the specific amount and where the money would come from wasn’t revealed — proposals are expected during July’s cabinet meeting.

This would follow a £3.4 million rolling investment in February alongside £1 million in one-off funding meant to hire 60 new staff, including 46 full-time posts.

Although committee members chose to endorse the changes to the system, there was scepticism as to whether the council would be able to turn the lacking service around.

Cllr Ladd said the new plans were more robust but that only time would tell if they would be effective.

He added: “We’re at the last chance saloon with this, it’s important to get this right.”

A further report on the delivery of SEND services will also be considered during Thursday’s education and children’s services scrutiny committee meeting.