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NNPCF working to improve accountability in the SEND system

When the Children and Families Act was launched with great fanfare in 2014, the NNPCF was quick to point out that the existing accountabilities did not match the principles of the new system. Whilst services were required to work together in a joined-up way and schools were required to listen to parents and respond early to the needs of children, there were few ways that parents could seek redress if this was not happening. Our concerns were first highlighted in our national priorities document in March 2016 and we have re-iterated them in our last two state of the nation reports.

We continue to receive a lot of feedback from parent carer forums on this topic and national reports (for example the Education Select Committee and the National Audit Office in 2019) also focused on the need to improve accountability across the SEND system.

In the last few weeks, the NNPCF have been working in three key ways to improve accountability in the SEND system.

Coproducing the new local area inspection regime post 2021

The current round of local area SEND inspections are due to end in 2021. The NNPCF have been engaging with Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who are exploring a new local area inspection regime beyond 2021. The NNPCF attends the LA Inspection Stakeholder Group and the co-chairs have met with the lead inspectors to share our evidence to the SEND review.

In our discussions we emphasised the following points:

  • Local area inspections have been a force for good and must continue – they have significantly improved the focus on SEND in local systems particularly from health and social care services.
  • We would like to see the inspections place a greater emphasis on listening to parents and early intervention.
  • We are calling for a greater focus on lifelong outcomes – the purpose of the SEND system should not be just about school but about preparing a young person for a happy, healthy, independent and meaningful life.

Making the current local area inspection regime more effective

We recently surveyed parent carer forums and asked them about their experiences of local area SEND inspections. We have shared key messages with the lead inspector including:

  • More coproduction around the timing and accessibility of meetings for parents
  • Greater consistency in with meetings parent carer forums should be attending

You can find our full report in the appendix to this document.

NNPCF recommendations to the Single Route of Redress National Trial

The single route of redress national trial gives SEND tribunals the powers to make non-binding judgements on health and social care services. The trial is currently ongoing and ends in August 2020. The NNPCF is represented on the stakeholder group and we have submitted our recommendations to the Department for Education calling for the extended powers of the tribunal to made permanent.

  • The sheer number of cases (1545 as a January 2020) shows there is a need for the extended powers
  • The new powers align the remit of the tribunal to the principles of the SEND reforms
  • They give families a “one stop shop” to redress issues across education, health and social care
  • A failure to make the extended powers of the tribunal permanent will further damage parental confidence in the system.
  • Finally, we have called for greater powers for the tribunal so they can make binding judgements on health and social care.

Building on our work over the last 4 years

All of this builds on the work we have been doing over the last four years to represent parental views and improve accountability in the SEND system. Some examples of this include:

Appendix: NNPCF Feedback on Local Area Inspections January 2020

  1. Parent Carer Forums (PCF) are overwhelmingly supportive of LA inspections as a force for improvement in the SEND system.

“We found the inspection process and team to be very good.”

2. PCFs would like to see more coproduction in the timings of inspection meetings – too many felt that they placed an unreasonable burden on already stretched parent and many said timings were difficult to fit around caring responsibilities.

“It seems silly that these guys are rating others on coproduction yet do not do it themselves”

“No negotiation on times”

“It was a really challenging week and actually excluded many of our reps”

3. There is huge variation in what meetings PCFs are invited to. There needs to be a clear expectation that PCFs attend everything unless there is a compelling reason not to, notably key CQC meetings.

“Despite complaining to our LA and Ofsted we were not invited to any meetings except the welcome meeting, SEF and parent participation meeting.”

“None at all.”

“[We} were invited to everything.”

4. Not all PCFs had the opportunity to meet with inspectors privately. This should happen in all areas.

“Had 20 minutes only after phoning the inspectors to complain that the LA were giving us no time.”

“The inspectors made no contact with the forum. Also ignored chair’s e-mail asking to be contacted.”

5. Not all forums had the chance to share information / data / evidence with inspectors prior to the inspection. Inspectors should contact PCFs directly and ask them if there is anything they want to share – not all PCFs will have access to the inspection portal / share drives.

“We asked for our own route to do this.. [otherwise the CCG and LA] would have seen all of our information including individual case examples.

6. Before accepting a Local Area’s response to a inspection letter, inspectors must establish whether the PCF has been involved in its drafting

“Been shut out of the process”

“We have a place on the SEND board…therefore we wouldn’t agree to it unless input of parent carers was included…”

7. Forums in areas that get a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) report an incredible extra burden and need extra funding.

“the workload exploded”

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