Thanks to the 150 parents, carers and families who filled the second annual Staffordshire Parents and Carer Forum (S.P.C.F.) survey on their experience of S.E.N.D. services in the county, we have a better picture of the situation.
Key take-aways, which we shared during the official 12-month review meeting between Ofsted and the local authority in April, include:
- Despite a lot of hard work at local authority level to make changes, we’re still not seeing positive impact for families and children/young people.
- E.H.C.P. processes (needs assessments, reviews and implementation) are still a massive issue for parents. Problems include poor timeliness, very limited responsiveness (not reacting to a need or being fast enough when a need has been identified) and a lack of co-production (consultation and collaboration between families and schools or the system).
- Parents/carers still rarely feel listened to or believed. (Some of the on-the-record messages about parent blaming from the political leadership of S.C.C. have created an atmosphere of distrust.)
- Most parents/carers don’t have a relationship with a key worker and feel that they don’t have a clear line into the different services. This means families often get lost in the system.
- Most parents/carers feel that the different services aren’t joined up or coordinated, which makes them even harder to access. They report that different bits of the same service often give different advice/guidance.
- Parents/carers feel that there is a clear lack of experience, expertise, time and resources in all parts of the system. This has a direct negative impact on meeting their child’s needs.
During the meeting, S.P.C.F. representatives also shared with Ofsted that:
- We think that the local authority is broadly going in the right direction with the changes they are making and proposing.
- The early consultation with parents and carers (e.g. on specialist provision) is welcome and they would like more of that.
- There’s a lot of distrust and bad experiences which will take time and effort to overcome.
- Parents and carers need to see and feel the changes and understand better what’s happening, before the Local Authority sees a change in parents’ response.
The anonymous S.P.C.F. survey was sent to the full S.P.C.F. membership in early April 2023. Questions covered topics such as families’ experiences of E.H.C.P. processes, support from local authorities and the appropriate nature of school provision.
We plan to run the survey yearly so that we can track the changes in how we as parents, carers and our families experience S.E.N.D. services in Staffordshire. We’ll continue to feed that back through our regular conversations with the S.E.N.D. teams in the Local Authority until we see those changes in real life. And we’ll keep creating new chances for our members to feedback into the system in person wherever we can.