Monthly column for providers and professionals working in primary medical and dental services from Dr Rosie Benneyworth, Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care

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Dr Rosie Benneyworth

In this month’s column, I want to talk about our important work with Ofsted on inspections of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services. The children and young people (CYP) using these services will be patients of yours as primary care professionals and I thought this lesser known aspect of our work would be of interest to you all.

This five-year joint programme of inspections that started in May 2016 and seeks to evaluate how well local areas fulfil their responsibilities for CYP with special educational needs and disabilities.

Our joint framework looks at a local area’s effectiveness in three main aspects:

Inspections teams assess how well local areas are preparing CYP to live as independently as possible and, where possible, secure meaningful employment as they move into their adult lives. Moreover, the inspection framework holds local area leaders to account for their strategic leadership of services in the local area.

We are now three years into this programme and one thing I have heard already since I joined CQC from stakeholders and local leaders is that the inspections are making a difference. Our inspections have helped shape and focus the minds of local leaders on the objectives of the reforms set out in the legislation brought about to reform the system of help delivered to this vulnerable group in society.

Last week colleagues from CQC, Professor Ursula Gallagher, Deputy Chief Inspector for Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care, and Nigel Thompson, Head of Children’s Health and Justice, appeared before the Education Select Committee as part of an oral evidence session into SEND services. You can watch the recording of the session online. I want to thank them both for their efforts in leading this ongoing piece of important work.

To date we have inspected 92 local areas, and published 83 reports, of which, 41 were required to provide written statements of action. The proportion of those areas requiring written statements of action is also increasing year on year. This can be attributed to the fact that since the reforms came into force, our expectations of what good quality SEND services look like have increased too. We are expecting a more robust response from local areas. As Ursula alluded to during the evidence session last week, we are really beginning to understand what needs to happen underneath.

We have seen several examples of local leaders’ commitment to the reforms that brought about the changes to SEND services in 2014, however much progress is required. Many services are still on a journey to achieving good-quality, joined-up SEND outcomes.

Invariably, local area SEND inspection reports highlight the dedication and professionalism of frontline workers in carrying out their duties. Many professionals provide excellent services for children and young people, but this is delivered despite a deeply fragmented system. These obstacles prevent people working at a local and regional level from realising the vision of joined-up, personalised support and care.

Collaborative working underpins the effectiveness of the local area. In Waltham Forest, for example, we found an increasing range of services that could be access within the same centre. Joint assessments are carried out whenever possible. In our inspection, many parents were complimentary about this work, which saved time and led to speedier identification of SEND and fast-tracking to appropriate services.

Last month I talked about a number of areas that come under my remit as Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care. I will continue to shine a light on all areas of our work, such as our joint efforts with Ofsted, through this column. I do also hope you find time to look some of the local area reports on Ofsted’s website.

Have a great month everyone.


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