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Shropshire Council begins work to improve special needs provisions in the county

“Urgent” work is underway to improve special needs and disability provision in Shropshire, four months on from a critical regulators’ report.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission inspected the county’s services in January and found “significant areas for improvement”.

A report by Shropshire Council Children’s Services Director Karen Bradshaw will update councillors on progress since then in areas including speech and language therapy and autism assessment.

The document, to be discussed by the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, July 20, reminds them that the report criticised “weak strategic leadership” which was “most notable” in the county’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Ms Bradshaw, who is also acting as joint chief executive of the council, writes: “Shropshire Council works in partnership with the CCG and other key stakeholders, including parents and carers, ensuring that the SEND [special education needs and disability] offer meets the needs of children and young people.

“A joint SEND CQC and Ofsted inspection took place in Shropshire across education, health and social care between January 27 and 31.”

Ms Bradshaw, along with senior CCG figures, were sent an inspection findings letter by government inspector Lesley Yates in March. This listed 14 “key findings” including that “strategic leadership across the area is week”.

“This is most notable in the leadership of the CCG,” Ms Yates added.

“The implementation of SEND reforms by the CCG has been too slow. There has been inconsistent leadership for SEND within the CCG and a lack of cohesive partnership working.”

Ms Yates also wrote that “the current speech and language therapy [SaLT] service specification is not fit for purpose” with children and young people experiencing “significant waits for assessment and treatment”.

She also said: “There is no effective pathway for specialist assessment of autism spectrum disorder [ASD] for children over five.”

Despite some recent action, a “large number of children” were still awaiting assessment, Ms Yates added.

Public authorities that receive critical reports are asked to compile then publish a “written statement of action”.

Ms Bradshaw’s report says Shropshire’s is due to be published on Friday, September 25, and she is working with the CCG’s Director of Partnerships to improve leadership.

She also writes that commissioners are working to address the delays in ASD assessment “as a matter of urgency, although funding streams remain an issue”.

She adds: “The CCG Director of Partnerships has arranged to meet with the director lead for Shropshire Community NHS Trust to discuss the changes and proposals for reducing waiting times for speech and language therapy.”

“Significant progress and review of the SaLT waiting list has been undertaken and a new way of working has been developed.”

Ms Bradshaw’s report asks the committee to monitor the situation, and recommends the People Overview and Scrutiny Committee appoints a member as an “SEND champion”.

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