SEND questions and answers

What is the SEND system?

The SEND system applies to all children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities aged 0-25, introduced as part of the Children and Families Act in 2014. It brought about major changes to the way local authorities were required to provide for children and young people with SEND, including the introduction of education health and care plans (EHC), extending the age of entitlement to support and funding arrangements for those with high needs. Support for a child or young person with a learning disability will vary depending on their needs. It may involve a range of professionals across the education, health and social care systems. The commissioning and provision of these services in Sefton involves the local NHS (commissioners and provider organisations) and the council. Sefton ‘Local Offer’ website provides accessible information about services and support available locally.

How many children and young people does this affect?

There are around 1,400 children and young people in Sefton who require an EHC* and the level of health support they need as part of their wider plan (which will also include a range of local council actions) will vary greatly.

* There are a total of 5,550 children and young people in the borough with SEND. Estimated total Sefton population of residents aged 0-25 (including those aged 25) is 75,829

What is an EHC?

This stands for education, health and care plan (EHC). It describes the special educational needs of a child or young person and the help they will get to meet these needs. An EHC also includes any health and care provision that is needed. It is a legal document written by the local authority working with partners in the local NHS and is intended to ensure that children and young people with an EHC receive the support they need.

What is a designated clinical officer?

Designated clinical officers (DCOs) play a key part in implementing the SEND reforms in their local areas. Our DCO is an expert nurse and we have recently enhanced this role to have more dedicated time to lead SEND, overseeing and supporting joined up working between health services and Sefton Council. Importantly, our expert nurse provides advocacy and support for parents and carers.  

What did the inspectors’ find in their re-inspection?

Inspectors found that local area leaders have not made sufficient progress to improve each of the serious weaknesses unidentified in their initial inspection. Areas of criticism highlighted in the joint Ofsted and CQC re-inspection letter include:

  • Working together with parents and carers, particularly in designing their child’s individual care and support
  • Timely and high quality EHCs that are monitored to make sure they are working for children and young people
  • Waiting times and the quality of some health services
  • Joint commissioning arrangements between the local NHS and Sefton Council

What areas of progress did the inspectors find?

Children with an education, health and care plan (EHC) at the end of key stage 2 are making better progress in reading, writing and mathematics than during their initial inspection.

We have strengthened our expert nurse post (known as a designated clinical officer) to have more dedicated time to lead our SEND work, and we have invested resources to support longer term improvements. Both of these actions were acknowledged in the inspectors’ findings.

Positive steps were also noted by inspectors to better involve children and young people across the local area through activities like the annual young persons’ workshops and the appointment of a ‘young advisors’ coordinator. 

What are you doing to address inspectors’ findings?

We have taken a number of rapid actions, building on the good work of our dedicated, professional and compassionate healthcare staff to achieve more for our children and young people. 

We have made some immediate additional investments to address unacceptable waiting times in speech and language services – recruiting two new therapists that will create an extra 60 appointments per month whilst we carry out a fuller review of what’s needed in the longer term.

Booking systems have been changed so that in the future families should not experience multiple appointment cancellations to see a paediatrician.

We’re on a journey to improve the different services that children and young people with autism and ADHD need support from. Last year we made some significant investments and now we’re further reviewing those services, so they work together more seamlessly and provide better quality care.

We have enhanced the role of our expert nurse to provide stronger leadership for SEND, which is making good progress in working to support families and ensure joint working between the local NHS and Sefton Council – this was noted by inspectors.

We are working with health services to ensure parents and carers are fully involved in designing and agreeing the health element of their child’s wider educational health and care plan (EHC), and that these plans are timely and of the quality we all expect to enable our children and young people to make the good progress they deserve.

We have begun a rapid review of our internal arrangements for commissioning and monitoring SEND services. And we are putting a new system in place to bring performance data for these health services together in one place, so we can better spot any areas for action much quicker.

We have established a SEND improvement board, co-chaired by our chief officer for both CCGs and the chief executive of Sefton Council to oversee progress of work to improve SEND systems and services.

What happens next?

The CCGs are committed to working closely with and listening to our children and parents in partnership with our local NHS services and Sefton Council colleagues on a joint plan to improve care.

The CCG will continue to work with the children and young people’s overview and scrutiny committee as the work towards a step change in the pace of improvement work for children’s services.

Ofsted and CQC inspection letters can be found on the Ofsted website from the following link 

The inspectors’ letter is also published on the Sefton Council website and our website. You can also read our media statement here.