Council and NHS apologise for failing special educational needs and disabilities children in Kent

Watch: Council and health bosses apologise over failings of SEND children in Kent

Kent County Council and health bosses have apologised after failing to meet the needs of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) children in the county.

The 'heartfelt apology' has been issued after a follow up visit by inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission in September 2022.

They were looking to see if nine areas of weakness identified in a 2019 inspection had been addressed, however they found the local area has ‘not made sufficient progress’.

Inspectors spoke with children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, parents and carers and representatives, school leaders, and local authority and NHS officers.

Representing the views of many one parent said: "It feels as though my son's needs are not being prioritised and they don't care. They are incompetent."

Some of the findings from the report:

  • Three quarters of parents who completed Ofsted’s inspection survey said that they do not feel supported by the local area in identifying and providing the right help and support for their child with SEND

  • There continues to be too wide a variation in the quality of provision and in commitment to inclusion in schools. The lack of willingness of some schools to accommodate children with SEND has continued

  • As at the inspection of 2019, the high rates of absence and persistent absence of children with an EHC plan have continued

  • Repeated changes in staffing at all levels across the organisation, internal restructuring, the array of projects and plans at different stages of construction, reconstruction or implementation, a major lack of communication and the impact of the COVID pandemic all combine to generate the current sense of chaos and uncertainty.

  • Children, young people and their families continue to wait too long for assessments. The particularly unacceptable waiting times for children on the neurodevelopmental pathway, identified at the 2019 inspection, have not improved. Extensive waits, for up to four years, impact on education provision and access to other services, and cause immense stress to children and families

Leader of KCC, Roger Gough, said: "The report from Ofsted, received today, makes uncomfortable and hugely disappointing reading.

"We accept the findings and offer our heartfelt apologies to all the children and parents who we have let down and we are very sorry for the impact this has had on them.

"Since the last inspection three years ago, we have not made enough progress to the improvements that those who rely upon us deserve."

Both Kent County Council and NHS Kent and Medway bosses said they would be implementing new leadership, renewed commitment to focus on the child, improved parent experience, and strengthening SEND provision in mainstream schools

Dame Eileen Sills, the recently appointed Chief Nurse of the NHS Kent and Medway Integrated Care Board said: "We are truly sorry that the NHS continues to fail too many children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in Kent.

"We can also understand the frustration and anger felt by parents, carers and families in Kent revealed by this report. Many of the stories are heart-breaking. It should not be so hard to get the help needed especially as we know the Covid pandemic has already put additional pressures on people’s mental health.

"As a new organisation we promise we will listen to the voices of parents, carers and families and then take action, with our partners in Kent County Council and the voluntary and community sector, to make the necessary improvements so children with special educational needs and disabilities get the support from the NHS they need to thrive."