Councillor Patricia Bradwell: Extensive support for our vulnerable children and young people

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Lincolnshire children’s services provide some of the best support in the country for our vulnerable children and young people, their families and carers.

We are rated by Ofsted as a top authority for providing effective services and considered a leader nationally in the vital areas of safeguarding and wellbeing.

Which is why I was so disappointed to read Karen Lee‘s alarmist column about social care being in crisis and that families and children in Lincolnshire are suffering as a result.

Let me pick up on her points.

The funding to meet a child’s SEND needs, including those associated with autism, is based on detailed assessments. Where a child has an Education, Health and Care Plan, appropriate funding is provided to schools, based on their needs. These are reviewed to ensure that the school has the necessary resources to meet the child’s needs.

Here in Lincolnshire we have announced our commitment to SEND support with a planned investment of over £50 million into schools. This will help create an extra 500 special school places, major builds and refurbishments at our special schools to make sure they have facilities to meet all needs and improved support at mainstream schools.

These exciting developments will see a new special school built in Lincoln and a new school will replace the current John Fielding School to provide updated facilities.

Our Lincolnshire Parent Carer Forum have played an integral part in ensuring parents views and experiences were at the heart of the new vision. Recently asked to showcase their part in the partnership to ministers and other parent carer forums, they are vital in representing the views of parents and carers who need support for their children.

For early years pre-schools, nurseries and childminders working with children with SEND there is a range of services available in delivering quality early years education and care to all children.

Specialist teachers from locality teams work with looked after children, vulnerable children on a care plan and children at risk of exclusion. They also link in with health and social care colleagues for specific advice and support.

Parents with small children who need specialist support can also tap into the portage service with outreach workers from special schools providing learning in the home to prepare children for starting school.

In Lincolnshire 95% of SEND assessments are completed within the timescale of 20 weeks. Those that take longer are typically more complex and additional reports or assessments are necessary. Any extension on 20 weeks is usually agreed with parents but they can request that the authority complete the EHC Plan at that stage, to be reviewed later. Most parents prefer to wait until all assessments have been completed.

We’ve been working with the local Clinical Commissioning Groups to reduce waiting times for assessments for children and young people and improve the quality of assessments. A new, better process should be fully in place from April next year.

It will be much more responsive to the needs of families, reduce waiting times for assessments and provide more support to children and families, including from health visitors and through schools.

Finally, let me put the picture straight on our nursery schools.

Lincolnshire has five maintained nursery schools, in addition to the 579 early years and childcare providers across the county that provide early education and include nurseries, preschools, schools and childminders.

This is despite Lincolnshire having been funded at the minimum funding rate of £4.30 per pupil per hour since 2017 and this will continue up until 2019/20.

Local authorities do receive supplementary funding for maintained nursery schools, which helps support them to a higher level than other providers

We are waiting for the government to confirm the position beyond 2020 but will work with our maintained nursery schools, including those in Lincoln, to support them in the challenges they have around longer term funding.

There will always be individual cases where parents, carers and their children have particular difficulties which we will strive to solve, but the picture for children’s social care in Lincolnshire is one of solid support.

Maybe Karen Lee should highlight the dedication and commitment of our educational psychologists, occupational therapists, health visitors and school teachers in supporting our most vulnerable young people, rather than scare stories about children’s social care.