Services to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in west Cheshire assessed

13 April 2022

The services in place to support west Cheshire’s children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have been assessed to ensure they are helping everyone to receive the best start in life.

Commissioned and run by Cheshire West and Chester Council and NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, services were assessed by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Inspectors looked at the whole range of provision available, including inclusion in education, support with health, short breaks and activities and targeted support services. 

Inspectors spoke with a broad range of council and health staff, parents and carers, children and young people, teachers, nurses and psychologists amongst others as part of their five-day long visit. The final balanced report highlights the service’s strengths and areas for development and will support the two organisations as they progress with plans to improve the provision available.

Councillor Robert Cernik, Cabinet Member for Children and Families said:

“The Council is committed to providing the best support possible for our SEND cohort and I am pleased that a large number of strengths have been recognised by inspectors, which shows how hard our Children and Families staff work.

“The pandemic presented us with a number of challenges, and we have worked hard since to resume services and build on improving them. Inspectors were pleased to see that we were already aware of a number of the areas for development they identified and have plans in place to make the changes necessary. 

“I would like to thank all parents and carers for their invaluable support and feedback throughout this process. Your views are vital in helping us to shape future services and making sure that they deliver what our borough’s children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities need.”

A large number of strengths were identified by the inspectors, including praise for leaders' ambition for children and young people with SEND and their understanding and knowledge of the area, need being identified in young people at an early age, collaborative partnership working amongst health, social care and education colleagues and a strong training programme for staff supporting young people with SEND.

The Inspectors recognised that many health teams and professionals were quick to provide services in a flexible way during the COVID-19 pandemic, including completing assessments remotely, where possible. This ensured that we continued to identify the emerging and changing needs of our children and young people.

There is a clear commitment for more children and young people to have their needs met in mainstream settings and advisory teaching services, such as the autism service and sensory services, are highly regarded, with many parents and school leaders describing these services as ‘second to none’. 

The joint work undertaken by health and education colleagues to develop training to target the identification of girls with social, emotional and mental health needs was positively identified in the report as well as the support that therapists provide for parents and settings when planning for children and young people moving between schools.

Children and young people talked positively about youth clubs in the local area and looked after children are encouraged to participate in their local communities. Young people described positively their involvement with the young people’s service.

Areas for development include improving the number of children who receive key developmental checks, improving wait times for need identification in some localities and updating care plans in a timely manner consistently. 

The Council has already put plans in place to make improvements to recruitment challenges, communication with parents and carers on the range of support of available, the short break offer and support for young people post-16 years of age. 

Clare Watson, Accountable Officer of NHS Cheshire CCG said:

"Thank you to all the parents and families who took part in the review.  It’s essential that we ensure parents’ voices are clearly heard and are able influence decision making and planning. We’re pleased to hear that parents appreciate the support of the parent carer forum.  

“It’s positive that Ofsted and CQC inspectors identified our commitment to collaborative working, and that our long-established strong relationships facilitate a shared vision to improve outcomes for children and young people in west Cheshire.  We are not complacent and have more to do to improve and make a positive impact on the lives of our young people.”

The full report can be found on the Ofted website: Ofsted website

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