Council and health chiefs ordered to improve services for people with disabilities and special needs in South Tyneside
Families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in South Tyneside are struggling to get access to the help they need, according to inspectors.
A team examining services found information was ‘outdated’, with ‘difficult to navigate’ websites and an ‘inconsistent’ approach from the workers who are supposed to refer them to health services.
The findings have been recorded in a report compiled following a joint inspection by Ofsted, the government’s education watchdog, and Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Criticisms of the service on offer in the borough included:
A lack of understanding of the day-to-day experiences of children and young people with SEND’ among bosses Children and young people ‘spending long periods of time out of school’ after being ‘excluded informally’ while they wait to be admitted to a specialist school A failure to properly tailor Education Health and Care (EHC) Plans to individual needs in some cases
As a result of the findings, care chiefs have been formally put on notice to produce a ‘Written Statement of Action’ to tackle weaknesses.
The report also highlighted some positives, such as the high quality service on offer to some families and ‘committed’ staff who ‘go the extra mile’.
The problems were identified in a council report in June which claimed some families in the borough face a ‘battle’ to get the right services and care for their children.
And the joint Ofsted and CQC report concedes SEND has been subject to a ‘more determined focus’ in South Tyneside over the past 12 – 18 months.
A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) insisted problems had already been identified before the inspection and an improvement plan was ‘well underway’.
A statement from the organisations said: “South Tyneside’s inspection mirrors that of many other areas. More than half of all Local Authorities have required a written action plan after inspection.
“Authorities are operating within a tight financial envelope against a backdrop of increased demand for council services in areas such as adult and children’s social care and SEND children.
“In South Tyneside the number of children with EHC Plans has almost doubled since 2015 and the borough has higher levels of children needing support than nationally.”