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Whitehall will not step in to rescue failing special educational needs service in Suffolk

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Endeavour House, Ipswich (10182944)
Endeavour House, Ipswich (10182944)

Health and education chiefs in Whitehall say there are no plans to use intervention powers in a bid to improve Suffolk’s ailing special educational needs and disabilities service (SEND).

The SEND became the first service in the country to fail a reinspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission in March.

It meant that the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England became involved, and, following a first meeting in London, the DfE has said the service has an action plan in place that should ensure rapid improvements.

“Our ambition is for high-quality services in every local area for all children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities,” said a DfE spokeswoman.

“Suffolk now has an action plan in place to speed up progress and this will be reviewed in a meeting with key partners later this year.

“We will continue to work closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement to support Suffolk to make improvements to services.

“We have no plans to use any formal intervention powers at this stage.”

A full action plan is to be published and a follow-up meeting organised in the next six months, most likely in September.

The Suffolk Parent Carer Network – the official forum for parents and carers that works with dozens of families – was denied a seat at the table during the meeting, but the DfE has said that a representative will be invited to the meeting later in the year.

Vivienne Stimpson, director of nursing for NHS England East, said: “We are working closely with the Department for Education to support our partners in Suffolk to make improvements to services for children.

“Since the Ofsted and Care Quality Commission report was published, an action plan has been put in place to ensure progress is made. This will be reviewed at a further meeting later this year.”

A spokeswoman on behalf of the county council said the ambition was to ensure that every child could expect a high-quality service.

“We had a productive discussion with the Department for Education and NHS England about the future of SEND services in Suffolk and the action plan that is needed to make further improvements,” she said.

“The DfE and NHS England will follow the meeting up with a letter in due course and a progress meeting will be scheduled.”