Suffolk SEND services review to begin next week - here's what it will involve

More than 50,000 children are considered to be in poverty across Suffolk and north Essex, according

A review of Suffolk's special educational needs and disabilities service has been explained - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A review of elements within Suffolk's special educational needs and disabilities service is to be carried out by experts from Lincolnshire, it has been announced - and work will begin from next week.

But parent campaigners have said they are still not convinced it goes far enough.

Suffolk County Council's under-fire SEND service announced last weekend that an independent review of communications to parents and "family-facing" elements of the service would take place.

The authority has now confirmed that will be a six-week review beginning next week, conducted by two senior officers from Lincolnshire County Council along with performance analysts and the chairman of their parent carer network.

Key areas of scrutiny will be the communication to families and youngsters, the workflow of cases, processes for responding to families and their queries, and timely placements of children.

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A report of findings will be collated, shared with those who took part, published on the council's website and scrutinised by the new education scrutiny committee.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Rachel Hood

Councillor Rachel Hood, new Conservative cabinet member for education, skills and special educational needs and disabilities at Suffolk County Council - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Conservative cabinet member for education and SEND, Rachel Hood, said: “Lincolnshire has excellent SEND provision and the team has kindly agreed to review certain elements of our service and will make recommendations based on their findings which will be of great value to us. 

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“Families with experience of Suffolk’s SEND may share their feedback of the communication process for the review, but we ask that this is relevant to the scope of the review. We have set up an email account for families to feed in their comments.

"It is important that a range of stakeholders are heard so we can fully understand our strengths and weaknesses and identify next steps. Ofsted have confirmed that we have made significant improvement in this area, and the findings of this review will enable this improvement to continue.

“We know that every parent and carer wants the best for their children, especially when it comes to education and care. Suffolk County Council wants the same and must strive to provide the very best services we can. 

“This review will be immediate, in depth and independent and we will act on the recommendations made as swiftly and thoroughly as we can.  
“We want to reassure parents and carers that this is a priority and we will make improvements where they are needed as quickly as possible.”  

Calls had been made by the Campaign for Change (Suffolk SEND) group of  more than 330 parents for the review to have a basis in legal responsibilities, but the council has said it will not carry out a review of legal requirements because that is the role of Ofsted, the education watchdog.

Labour Councillor Sarah Adams Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk County Council's Labour group leader Sarah Adams - Credit: Archant

A spokesman from the group said "It falls far short of the independent legal audit that is now required to root out the problems".

They added that the offer of a meeting from council leader Matthew Hicks would be taken up but stressed it was not the job of parents to fix the issue.

Labour group leader Sarah Adams said: "If families are going to have confidence in this process, they need to be the ones to decide who will conduct the review, not an administration which has overseen years of failure.

"Families also need to be given a key role in shaping the terms of the review. The current scope is so narrow that it is unlikely to bring about the significant change we need to see - it is deeply frustrating.

"While Suffolk County Council’s communications with families have been woeful, fixing that alone will do little to change some of the appalling lived experiences, stress and delays experienced by many."

Email to take part in the review.

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