SEND campaigners call for county children's leaders to step aside - The Evesham Observer

SEND campaigners call for county children's leaders to step aside

Evesham Editorial 13th Mar, 2023   0

CAMPAIGNERS for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and their families and carers have called on the county’s director of children’s services to resign.

SEND National Crisis Worcestershire made the call to Tina Russell in an open letter from its 799 members across the county which accused senior managers of ‘unlawful’ decision-making.

In November 2021, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) conducted a revisit to Worcestershire following a scathing report in 2018 which revealed significant weaknesses across 12 areas of service delivery.

The watchdogs reported last January sufficient progress had still not been made in four areas, all of which relate to the delivery of services for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Parents and carers are still experiencing ‘continued failings’ of Worcestershire Children First (WCF)/Worcestershire County Council (WCC), according to campaigners.

In the letter, parents said: “Despite some promising recruitment into a few leadership roles, there remains a widespread culture at WCF of delay tactics, unlawful practices, and treating parents and carers as adversaries.”

“Parents and carers who did seek to contribute in this way either see little evidence of changes being made ‘on the front line’ or struggle to be able to attend the required meetings due to the impact on their own families of WCF’s continued wide-ranging failures and unlawful practices.”

Among the allegations made by campaigners is a ‘widespread failure’ to secure appropriate reports from professionals in EHC needs assessments, including inadequate contributions being made from healthcare.

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) are not being given to parents because WCF has delays in assessments according to campaigners while parents and carers also face having to commission their own independent reports to get an accurate picture of their child’s/young person’s needs.

A failure to secure appropriate school placements resulting in children and young people missing months and sometimes years of education is also being blamed on the department.

“These failures have real and long-lasting consequences for children/young people and their families,” the letter added.

“We cannot allow this to continue without public challenge as our efforts to coproduce have largely failed.

“Accountability must be now realised for the failures to date but more importantly the continuing failures, despite some efforts to change it.

“Our children, young people and families deserve and are entitled, by law, to better.

“Plain and simple. Tina Russell, you have sat at the helm of this organisation throughout this period and you have overseen these continued failures.

“For the good of the county and our children and young people, we call for your resignation.

“We also call for the removal of (senior) managers who continue to make unlawful decisions which are failing our children and young people,” campaigners added.

WORCESTERSHIRE Children First chief executive Tina Russell said she was ‘saddened’ by calls from campaigners for her and senior managers to go.

In a detailed response, Mrs Russell said key members of the campaign group have had ‘significant, direct contact with managers’.

Group members in turn have received excellent support and positive feedback individually from a number of members.

“This action will not bring about the change the parents are rightly seeking,” she said.

“We have been working on our Accelerated Action Plan for almost 12 months now. Throughout this time, we have worked alongside a wide range of professionals, and parents and carers in implementing our comprehensive Action Plan.

“There is national and government recognition the ‘crisis in SEND’ is a national issue and the solution cannot be achieved in a short term.

“The challenges we are addressing in Worcestershire reflect those being seen across the country.

“Each month, we invite representatives of 24 different Worcestershire Parents/Carers forums, of which the Worcestershire SEND National Crisis Group is one, to join us at our Parent/Carer stakeholder forum so we can hear their views and co-produce service developments.

“Whilst the feedback is increasingly positive with regard to parent/carers being fully involved in assessments, feeling the needs of their children are well understood and their plans are meeting or working toward meeting their needs, we recognise this isn’t yet the experience for all children and young people and we continue to be committed to making it the experience for all.

“The challenges and solutions are multi-dimensional and complex, but we remain committed to drive our improvements at pace, to ensure that we identify and assess an individual child’s needs early and to develop our specialist and inclusive provisions to meet the needs of children and young people ultimately promoting the best outcomes for each individual child or young person.” 


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