'Widespread systematic failings' in help for SEND children in Oxfordshire, report finds

Watch: Council and health leaders tell ITV News Meridian's Kara Digby they are working to correct widespread failings, as parents describe the 'consuming' journey to get the right care for their children

A report has found 'widespread systemic failings' in services offered to children with special educational needs and disabilities across Oxfordshire.

During an inspection in July this year, Ofsted and CQC inspectors found that not enough young people were getting access to the education provision they needed.

They also found that the quality of health care plans was low and that families felt they were not being listened to.

An extract from the report reads: "The experiences of children and young people in Oxfordshire depend on who they meet along their journey. If dedicated professionals recognise their needs early on, collaborate with others effectively and are then able to access the right support, they are one of the few whose needs are met.

"Sadly, this is too rare due to long-standing failings in local partnership arrangements. For most children, young people and their families, their experience is one of confusion and delay, alongside frustration that their presence and their voice are not listened to or valued. Consequently, many do not receive the right support or have their needs met effectively."

The council and local care board say they are sorry and are committed to making rapid progress in improving services.

The report found that families felt they were not being listened to. Credit: ITV Meridian

Stephen Chandler, Oxfordshire County Council’s Interim Executive Director, People, Transformation and Performance, said: “I am so sorry we have let families down. We fully and unequivocally accept the findings of this report. We must and will do better together as a partnership.

“We are urgently focusing our efforts to address the concerns raised. To do this, we want to develop a joint action plan together with parents and carers of young people with SEND as well as with other support and advocacy organisations."

Rachael Corser, NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West ICB’s Chief Nursing Officer, said: “We’re sorry that our Oxfordshire SEND services have not met the high standards which our young people need and deserve.

"And we understand the frustration of parents, carers and families in Oxfordshire over the delays and confusion they face when trying to get help for their children.

“As health and care partners, we’re committed to building on the good work already being done in Oxfordshire, which the report acknowledges, and to make rapid progress in improving everything that must be done much better."

The council and local NHS were commended for their work with 18 to 25-year-olds, while their specialist teams within mental health and children's disabilities were well organised and knowledgeable.

A monitoring inspection will be carried out within 18 months, with a full re-inspection within approximately 3 years.

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