Provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Bury has improved in areas that were previously highlighted as being of concern.

These services were originally inspected by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in June 2017, where eight areas of weakness needing improvement were identified.

Since then, a huge amount of work has taken place involving partners in health, social care and education services, working with children, young people and their families to improve services.

Inspectors from Ofsted and the CQC re-visited Bury in May 2019, and found that progress had been made in all areas of concern, with sufficient progress made in the following five areas:

  • Strategic leadership and vision to drive forward the reforms.
  • Co-production being at the heart of strategic considerations.
  • Services working together for children and young people with SEND.
  • Awareness and understanding of the local offer.
  • That children’s SEND are accurately and consistently identified by schools.

The inspectors spoke with more than 300 children and young people with SEND, their parents and carers, along with local authority and NHS officers.

They say that systems and structures are now securely in place to accelerate the pace at which the reforms can be implemented. CCG and council leaders are now based in one place, and one person has strategic oversight of both services. Health leaders are more involved at a strategic level, alongside leaders from the local authority, and SEND champions and ambassadors are also in place.

A key element in the improvements is the move to a new provider for community services, whose leadership has been rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the CQC.

Since the inspectors’ original visit, there has been a relaunch of the SEND local offer. This was co-produced with children, young people and their families, who cited the new local offer as user-friendly, and the commitment of health and care to engage with parents as equal partners at a strategic level was noted by the inspectors.

Investment has been made to ensure the inclusion and participation of children, young people and their families. The Bury2gether parent forum has been supported to increase its membership, and now boasts more than 700 members. The forum has also been given use of the Brandlesholme Hub community centre, which has been adapted to ensure accessibility, and is run by parents, enabling them to connect with peers and professionals while offering a safe place for children and young people to play.

Working in partnership has been a key theme since the original inspection, with agencies developing holistic packages of care tailored to individual health, care and educational needs, managing inclusion and keep children in education.

There is now greater consistency in the identification of SEND and, through a new Inclusion Partnership, schools are providing peer-to-peer support and professional expertise to ensure that children can remain in school.

In addition, investment has reduced waiting times for physiotherapy, assessments and treatments and the service has become more coordinated as a result.

The inspectors said that further work was needed in the three remaining areas: sharing information from health between different services and agencies; health input into education, health and care plans; and effective joint commissioning arrangements.

An action plan is in place to address these issues. This includes: creating a co-located joint commissioning team with streamlined management and budgets; ensuring that services ‘talk to each other’ better; and creating a single point of access for services to help parents navigate the system, with real-time feedback from them.

Geoff Little, chief executive of Bury Council and accountable officer of NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We welcome the re-visit of Bury’s SEND services and appreciate the findings of the inspectors. It is reassuring that Bury has made sufficient progress to improve in the majority of areas identified as a weakness back in 2017, but we recognise that there is more to do on these remaining issues which the inspectors have highlighted.

“I would like to thank local children, young people and their families for helping to shape our new local offer and for taking part in the re-visit process. I want to reassure local people that it is our priority to address the three remaining areas at speed. We have already made changes since the re-visit and we are completely focused on ensuring that the experience of the children, young people and their families who access these vital services is a positive one.”

Dr Jeffrey Schryer, chair of NHS Bury CCG, added: “We recognise the importance of partnership working to deliver the changes; this includes health, care, education and also local families. Key to this is the coming together of the commissioning functions of Bury Council and the CCG to create the right environment to plan better care and make decisions together. This new way of working is vital if we are to improve services and meet the needs of children, young people and their families in the future. We now have the right systems and structures securely in place to accelerate the pace at which these changes can be implemented.”

Testimonials from Bury families:

Mr B: “I am a father of a 14-year-old young lady with complex needs/disabilities. Our daughter’s EHC is fully supporting her to access the best education she can while being fully supported in all her needs. We have had joint meetings with health professionals, school and social care to keep the team focusing on her at all times. If ever something goes wrong, we can pick up the phone to all professionals and receive the help we need.”

Mrs W: “My son is 17-years-old and in 8 months’ time he will be 18. He has a high level of support needs and currently has a package of support built on direct payments.

“Every step of the way we have been supported by Bury local authority and health colleagues from Pennine Care and Complex Case Nursing team. The support and knowledge from the Children with Disabilities Team has been exceptional.

“In terms of our son’s EHC plan it is person centred and bespoke to his needs. The SEN team have been exceptional in ensuring this is the case.

“I can honestly say I have been on this difficult journey for nearly 18 years now and I am so glad we are in Bury. My son is looked at in a positive way, for his gifts and skills and his future going forward. He will be a valued member of society who will be visible in his community and making a difference in so many ways and as parents that’s all we can ask for.”

Mr P: “The special educational needs that my daughter suffers from have not always been met by her education and health care providers. This changed rapidly once we became involved with First Point Family Support who directed and supported us. First Point and SEND IASS remained by our side when going through the process of trying to change schools; ultimately following their joint efforts, my daughter changed school and went from 0hr/wk of teaching assistant support to 25hr/wk which has started to close her attainment gap and improve my little girl’s ability to socialise and take part in a healthy school environment.”

Anon: “Since being introduced to First Point Family Support Services in November 2017, I have been advised, felt cared about, supported and, above all, listened to.

“After attending courses on how to deal with Sensory Processing issues, and Managing ASD, I have felt more empowered to be able to attempt to conquer the daily challenges living with a child with the vast array of complex needs my son has.

“Over the past 10 months, one of the Managing Directors of First Point has been our family worker. She has been my rock. Many times I have totally crumbled, yet she has brought me back up, advised, supported and been there for us as a family.

“I have nominated her for a Bury Pride award because I strongly feel, without her help and the support of FPFFS, we as a family would not be where we are now. That is to say, while we struggle daily, the support and backing received means we wake up together to face the next difficult day head on.”

Notes to editor:

The Ofsted and CQC inspectors said that further work was needed in three areas. This is being tackled as follows:

Sharing information from health between different services and agencies:

  • Improving, possibly though new technology, the ways in which information is recorded and shared.  This should ensure consistency and accuracy, and reduce delays.
  • Creating an additional specialist nurse role, focusing on children aged 14-25 with a learning disability, to improve their transition to adult services.

Health input into education, health and care plans:

  • An audit of all education, health and care plans will be completed within four weeks to ensure consistent high quality health outcomes are contained within every plan.
  • Plans will be co-produced with children, young people and their families.
  • Ensure that any training needs of health care professionals will be carried out.

Effective joint commissioning arrangements:

  • Work is under way to establish a joint health and social care commissioning team, with executive leadership and aligned budgets, to drive through the recommendations.
  • Joined-up ways of working, and a single point of access, to simplify the system for parents and ensure they only have to ‘tell their story’ once.