Barnsley parents are having to 'battle' to get support for youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities

Parents and carers are having to ‘battle’ to get support for their children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Barnsley, an inspection has found.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 9:58 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 12:19 pm

A recent Ofsted report said Barnsley Council and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had made positive changes, reducing wait times for autism spectrum disorder assessments and the services are working together to fix a ‘broken SEND system’.

The council and CCG were inspected to ensure new SEND reforms are being implemented correctly.

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Mel John-Ross, executive director of children’s services at Barnsley Council and Jamie Wike, chief operating officer, Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group

Inspectors said area leaders were ‘slow’ to implement the 2014 reforms, leading to ‘high levels of dissatisfaction among parents and carers’.

Inspectors noted that school exclusions for pupils at SEND support are ‘too high’, and that ‘parents and carers of children and young people with SEND feel isolated’.

“Over time, many parents and carers have had to battle to get the provision and support their child needed,” the report adds.

“This is changing. In most cases, the voice of parents and carers is now listened to by practitioners.”

The report stated that there are ‘insufficient school places locally for children and young people with SEND’, which is leading to ‘a reliance on out-of-area placements and late school placement decisions’.

What is being done to create more SEND places in Barnsley?

However, area leaders are ‘aware of this’, and have made plans to increase the number of school places within Barnsley.

Earlier this year, a report revealed that 220 children and young people from Barnsley have an out of borough school place, at a total cost of £11,233,061.

The Council and CQC were praised in the report for their specialist youth forum, who advise decision makers on how services should be organised.

“The voice of children and young people with SEND is strong in Barnsley,” say inspectors.

The report also praised health and children’s services for working together well, adding that the number of young people with SEND who progress into education or employment is ‘strong’.

“The post-16 education and training offer is effective. Young people with SEND and their parents and carers are happy with the support and learning available at this point,” adds the report.

In a joint statement, Mel John-Ross, executive director of children’s services at Barnsley Council and Jamie Wike, chief operating officer, Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group, said they were ‘pleased’ that the report highlighted ‘many strengths and the progress that we’ve made’.

“We have a clear focus on making real improvements to services, with a true sense of purpose and commitment to children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) and their families in Barnsley.

“Our early years support is good, the number of young people with SEND who progress into education or employment is strong, more individual plans are being co-produced with parents, and outcomes for children and young people who have Education, Health and Care plans are positive.

“The voice of children and young people with SEND is strong in Barnsley.

“However, we know that there is more to do to ensure that the lived experience of families is influencing our strategic plans for services and provision.

With our school leaders and partners, we will also improve the early identification of, and provision for children and young people with SEND but without an Education, Health and Care Plan.

“This includes producing a written statement of action together. We’ll use the findings of this report, together with our joint strategic needs assessment, to help us do that.

"The statement will be clear about what actions will happen, by when and how they benefit children and young people with SEND and their families in Barnsley.

“We’re committed to building on our strengths and the progress that we’ve made, to transform and improve SEND services in the borough.”