A joint Ofsted/CQC inspection over five days in February this year found lengthy waiting times for key health services ranging from 90 weeks for autistic spectrum disorder to 194 weeks – more than three years – for a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The eight-page report that resulted said many parents “express dissatisfaction” with their experience of the SEND system in Kirklees and that “they feel they have to fight to get the help that they need.”
It said families of children and young people with SEND “are frustrated with the long waiting times for the services they need”.
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The report noted that disruption caused by Covid-19 has increased these waiting times.
The report noted that despite recent improvements, children and young people with SEND in Kirklees in mainstream settings “have been more likely to be suspended from school than their peers nationally”.
It said other educational outcomes for children and young people with SEND, particularly those at SEND support, “are too often below those of which they are capable”.
Addressing waiting times, inspector Malcolm Kirtley said they were “too long”, adding: “Such delays mean that important needs of children and young people with SEND are not met over time.
"These delays cause distress for many children, young people and families.”
The council along with Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group must now provide a Written Statement of Action on SEND services in the borough.
In a joint statement to councillors Mel Meggs, Kirklees Council’s strategic director for children’s services, and Carol McKenna, Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group chief officer, said offering high standards of SEND provision was “incredibly important” and though they were “disappointed” with “certain aspects” of the report they welcomed the inspection “as a way of helping us to support local families”.
They added: “We are pleased that the inspectors saw many strengths across the wide range of services in Kirklees. Equally, we recognise there are areas that need further time to develop.
"It’s important to note that the inspection covered a five-year period and some of the feedback does not reflect current practice.
“Nationally, over half of SEND inspections carried out in recent years have resulted in a Written Statement of Action being required.
"However, the two areas of weakness highlighted in the Kirklees report is much lower than the number in many other areas and we are already addressing them.
“Though our Written Statement of Action will show the steps we intend to take, work on these two areas has already started – a fact the inspection team have acknowledged.
“The disruption caused by Covid-19 has created many challenges, but all of the issues raised by the inspection are being addressed and our transformation of SEND support, along with £34m of extra funding, will continue to make a positive difference for local families.”