Agenda item

SEND and Inclusion.


The Committee considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services which provided an update on planned activity and progress made around SEND and Inclusion, as well as outlining current financial challenges, demand in the SEND system and an overview of the new Transforming SEND and Inclusion in Leicestershire (TSIL) programme. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 8’ is filed with these minutes.


In introducing the report, the Director outlined the current financial challenges being faced within SEND and inclusion, in particular the anticipated cumulative deficit of £63m. The Department had been experiencing increased growth and demand, as well as service delays, a high number of complaints and increased appeals against decisions.


Arising from discussion, the following points were made:


      i.         In response to concerns raised around the 54% increase in the number of children and young people requiring an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in Leicestershire, when compared to the East Midlands (32%) and England (38%), the Director explained that the TSIL programme would aim to understand the reason behind the difference and would develop a strategy to address the issue. Diagnostic work had been undertaken in late 2021 to understand the challenges and difficulties in the local SEND system and to inform planning for the TSIL programme. The TSIL programme would aim to identify the barriers for providing support to children requiring an EHCP and would develop a strategy for working with mainstream schools to ensure that children could receive, where appropriate, support in a mainstream school setting. Members requested and the Director undertook to provide detailed updates on progress of delivery of the TSIL programme, including updates on the number of Leicestershire children and young people requiring an EHCP compared to regional and national data.

     ii.         A member raised concerns regarding the increase in the number of parents going to appeal or a tribunal which had compounded the delays in the Special Educational Needs Assessment (SENA) service.  The member questioned what could be done to avoid this in the future.  The Director confirmed that the appeal process was difficult for all involved and the ambition of the service would be to provide the right support at the right time in the right place which should help avoid disagreements in the system around a child’s care. Members were assured that the Department would continue to conduct learn from current cases which would help identify better ways of working for the future though the TSIL programme.  However, it was accepted that there would still be some cases where referral to appeal or a tribunal could not be avoided.

    iii.         Members noted that a small number of school places for children transferring to junior and secondary school being assessed for an EHCP had not yet been awarded. However, these were complex cases which involved challenging circumstances which the Department was working to resolve as quickly as possible. Members were reassured that service planning had been undertaken within the Department and with transport colleagues to create milestones which would aim to deal with delays proactively rather than reactively. The Director undertook to provide members with information on the current number of assessments outstanding for children transitioning to junior or secondary school.

   iv.         It was noted that greater focus would be placed on identifying and meeting a child’s needs. The Director highlighted the need to recognise that a child’s needs could still be met where issues were identified through other services and tat an EHCP was not always needed or appropriate. Members commented that communication with parents as part of this process would be critical.

     v.         A member commented that it would be important to keep parents informed of pressures in the system. If they did not understand then it was more likely that complaints would be received. The Director confirmed that relationship and information management had been identified as key work streams for the Council’s planned future approach within the TSIL programme. Closer working with the Parent and Carer Forum would aim to improve relationship management through closer engagement with parents and carers. Closer engagement with parents would continue to inform improvements to internal systems such as Synergy and aim to improve knowledge around working with blended families. It would also help manage parental expectations throughout the process.

   vi.         A member commented that whilst the approach to seek the views of children should be welcomed, there were some with disabilities that meant they could not easily communicate. Excellent work was, however, being undertaken in many special schools and it was suggested that ensuring their involvement to help capture the views of the children they supported would benefit the programme for the future.


  vii.         Members noted that expansions had taken place at all five Local Area Special Schools to provide an additional 94 places from September 2022 as part of the Departments wider SEND strategy for developing local provision and to meet the demand for a specific cohort of children requiring places. The TSIL programme would continue to develop on this work to meet the demand for school places and to ensure that children were placed in the correct setting to meet their individual needs.



 viii.         In response to concern around the cost of increasing deficits in the Dedicated Schools Grant budget, the Director explained that the Government had conducted a data collection exercise to analyse how local authorities managed this budget. Members noted that the deficit remained unfunded and that there was therefore a budget overspend. However, the Department for Education (DfE) would not issue any penalty from running this deficit. The Director reported that changes to accounting regulations were expected from 2023 which would be informed by the Government data collection exercise. Members noted that the Council fell within a group of 55 local authorities which had ‘less severe but substantial deficits’ and so had been invited to join the national government Delivering Better Value in SEND Programme. Initial discussions with the DfE about the programme had taken place but the nature of the programme and the level of support from the DfE remained unclear.


   ix.         The Cabinet Lead Member for Children and Families added that the funding position of the Council and for Leicestershire schools had contributed to delays within SEND and Inclusion services and continued to affect provision of SEND and Inclusion support in schools.




a)    That the update on planned activity and progress being made around SEND and Inclusion alongside ongoing financial challenges and increased demand in the SEND system be noted.


b)    That the Director of Children and Family Services be requested to provide Members of the Committee with a further update on the number of outstanding assessments for EHC Plans for those children who had transitioned to junior or secondary school in September 2022.


c)    That it be noted that further updates would be presented to future meetings of the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee as appropriate on progress on the delivery of the Transforming SEND and Inclusion in Leicestershire programme.


Supporting documents: