Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) identified a series of strengths in the SEND services, following a joint inspection in January, to judge Lambeth’s success in implementing disability and special educational needs reforms introduced in 2014.
They also set out areas where more work is needed, and the council has pledged to make the improvements required.
In a letter published this week, the inspectors said Lambeth’s leaders were “implementing the reforms in a way which makes a positive difference to the experiences and outcomes of children and young people with SEND in Lambeth”.
They added: “Leaders have taken time to understand the needs and characteristics of the local area. Their self-evaluation is accurate. This has enabled them to recently accelerate their pace of progress in implementing the reforms.”
A team of inspectors spoke to children and young people with disabilities and/or special educational needs, parents and carers, as well as council and local authority and National Health Service (NHS) staff during their week-long inspection.
They itemised strengths including the work of managers and staff including speech and language therapists, school nurses and health visitors in identifying and addressing the needs of young people with SEND.
The letter also acknowledged the work being done to improve outcomes, including reducing the number for children and young people with SEND who are excluded from school, and reducing the number of custodial sentences handed down to them.
But the inspectors also noted that a number of parents had said they were not sure how well professionals understood the needs of their child. They also reported that: “The area is not far enough on in helping children and young people with SEND prepare for adulthood. As a result, some young people, particularly those not eligible for adult care services, are not fulfilling their potential.”
Jennifer Brathwaite, Lambeth’s Cabinet Member for Children & Young People, said: “This was a demanding and wide-ranging inspection, so it is really positive to note the very many strengths identified by inspectors. Importantly too, they have not required Lambeth to produce a written statement of action.
“The report is helpful moreover in highlighting a number of important areas for development, most of which reflected our own self-evaluation.
“Improving services in this area is a priority for all of us. This report bears excellent testimony to the work we have done, including the high-quality partnerships (with parents and carers, with schools and with voluntary and statutory sector agencies) that are in place across Lambeth to support children with SEND.”
The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced changes intended to transform how special educational needs are met.
- requiring local authorities and their health partners to jointly plan and commission education, health and care services;
- replacing ‘statements of special educational need’ and ‘learning difficulty assessments’ with integrated ‘education, health and care needs assessments and plans’ focusing on outcomes and with the option of a personal budget for support; and
- the extension of education, health and care plans to include young adults up to 25 years old where they remain in further education or training.