Bristol City Council Inaccurate Data Reports Continue to Come to Scrutiny

In the wake of People Scrutiny Commission this week where no-show Jacqui Jensen did not attend to defend staggeringly bad EHCP assessment numbers, it’s been found that the numbers don’t add up to begin with.

The numbers for the last two meetings are questionable, with conflicting reports showing data supplied to councillors is either not accurate or not honest.

The People Directorate Performance Progress Report, a quarterly report presented to People Scrutiny Commission on 14 October 2019, contained the EHCP statistics for Quarter 1 the 01 April – 30 June 2019. It showed that just 2 of 169 EHCPs were issued within statutory timescales.

ehcp data bristol

When questioned in that meeting, Executive Director of Adults, Children, Education and Public Health in Bristol, Jacqui Jensen said that “It sounds ridiculously stupid to be nitpicking around numbers” but the ‘2’ was wrong and it was actually 4.

 

By the time the next People Scrutiny Commission meeting on 28 November 2019 was reached, The People Directorate Performance Progress Report for Quarter 2 dated 01 April – 30 September 2019, showed that no EHCPs were completed on time

 

Councillor Clive Stevens submitted a question in advance of this meeting asking for any ‘unpublished measures’ concerning EHCPs to help understand what was going on with ‘very very poor’ performance. And, what measures they had which could show ‘year on year’ improvement.

In the response to the question was a table showing the number of EHCPs finalised late and on time throughout 2019. Accompanying text states: ‘The data below demonstrates the increase in productivity of the team. Although the reports have continued to be late, the number being produced monthly in the latter months has increased significantly and this is before any additional staff are in post.’

The data shows the whole of 2019 up to the end of October, but according to this, just one EHCP was finalised on time.

Here at Chopsy Bristol, we have personally been through the EHCP process during this period. In July 2019, the same month 70 plans were finalised, we had been waiting 50 weeks and 46 weeks for our two plans. One had been requested in August 2018 and the second in September 2018. The figures are not showing a backlog of late plans from 2019, these are plans which were first requested back in early 2018 and taking a year, if not longer for some to be completed.

Simply being finalised means nothing either. The quality of the plans are not up for scrutiny and neither are the statistics of how many plans are being sent to the Send Tribunal for appeal.

It also shows that the Quarter 1 figures for the 01 April – 30 June 2019 are wrong. Only 36 EHCPs were finalised during this time and not the 169 claimed in the progress report – this is a cumulative number of EHCPs finalised throughout the year rather than those done in that specific quarter.

In Quarter 2, though dated 01 April – 30 September, the actual figures from 01 July – 30 September are 139 finalised plans, 138 late, one on time.

It’s impossible to get a straight answer to any statistical data concerning EHCPs in Bristol because the records appear chaotic.

In the Bristol Strategy for Children and Young People (0–25) with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities 2019–2022 draft version which went to People Scrutiny Commission 18 July 2019, it was stated that 2,875 children and young people aged 0-25 years of age had an EHCP – ‘558 of which are currently being finalised’. These 558 would be a backlog from 2018 right through 2019

In the same July meeting, Sally Kent of Bristol Independent Send Community, submitted a question asking what was going to happen to the children and young people with plans needing a special school place when there were no spaces available in Bristol, especially for the 558 EHCPs in the backlog.

But the then interim Director of Education in Bristol, Alan Stubbersfield, appeared not to recognise his own statistic replying: ‘However we do not recognise the 558 figure. I am advised that we have 84 plans currently waiting to be finalised. It might be that the 500 number relates to plans awaiting annual review processing, of which the great majority would not involve a placement.’

At Cabinet on Tuesday 02 July 2019, Councillor Anna Keen announced an independent review of Send would take place after admitting “Bristol has deeply concerning issues that go beyond other authorities.”

The data review encompassed the Send department’s move from the decommissioned Bright system used to record Send data to Liquidlogic’s Early Help Module (EHM) in April 2019.

In the report’s conclusion, Sam Freeman who carried out the review wrote: ‘There is strong evidence that the migration planning was not effective enough, causing a lack of operational and management reporting, impacting on the inconsistency of data and actual performance levels. Performance reporting needs to be given a high priority.’

Ironically, the data report also contained an inaccuracy, quoting from the Local Government Association Bristol City Council Send Review that took place the 09-21 January 2018. It mistakenly stated that it took place nearly 11 months later in November of the same year. Whether this was a typo in the final report or resulted in less stringent scrutiny in the data review is not clear.

The LGA Peer Review quoted in this review highlighted the blight of poor data nearly two years ago:  “… Poor performance has been tolerated and data quality has not been challenged by local area partners …. Tolerance of inaccurate data and poor service delivery which might be historical, yet the same problems remain … performance data is not effectively used to inform, or measure improvement priorities.”

In July, Sam Freeman writes: ‘Having reviewed documents and discussions as part of this review this has not yet been achieved and needs to be improved.’

It might be ridiculously ‘nitpicking’ about numbers, but the numbers consistently don’t add up. Data reported to scrutiny and forums is too often inaccurate affecting scrutiny and financial education decisions based on the information.

 


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