Bristol City Council Member Forum January 2020:
Member Forum gives Bristol councillors a chance to ask the elected mayor questions and to present statements about issues affecting the city or for that which the Council is responsible. Member Forum takes place for one hour before every Full Council meeting unless it is the annual Full Council or the Budget Full Council.
In January 2020, five questions from councillors were submitted regarding Bristol Send. The questions, answers and response to supplementary questions are below.
It is worth noting that in response to Councillor Tim Kent, Marvin Rees lists a series of things Bristol City Council has worked on for children in the city. None of them are Send provision and the three schools listed will be large mainstream schools.
Councillor Anna Keen in response to Councillor Steve Smith says that “a key group that all parents and carers of children with Send are automatically members of is a Bristol Parent and Carers group.” This is not accurate. Bristol Parent Carers is the Parent Carer Forum for the city. It comprises a group of parent carers which works in partnership with the local authority, however, it is not a group that parent carers automatically become members of or may have any connection with. Whilst the council works with Bristol Parent Carers on consultations and the Ofsted and CQC Written Statement of Action, it does not mean that all parent carers in Bristol will be part of that.
Liberal Democrat Question 2 to the Mayor from Councillor Kent
Subject: Education Health Care Plans
1. How many appeals against refusal to assess, to issue a plan, the detail of a plan, a refusal to change a plan following annual review, or a decision to cease the maintenance of a plan for Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) were made to the First-Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) in 2018 and 2019? How many of these appeals have the council conceded before the hearing, lost at tribunal and won at tribunal (each result listed separately by year)? (Please reply as down to a similar question in July 2018)
2. How much has been spent by Bristol City Council on legal fees, officer time and other costs in opposing parents of SEND children at SEND Tribunal between 2016 and 2019? How many cases have there been in total during this period to tribunal and what proportion of the cases have Bristol City Council been successful in defending?
1. 18 appeals were lodged in 2018-19* Of these:
11 = refusal to assess appeals
3 = refusal to issue an EHCP
3 = appeals in relation to content
1 = appeals in relation to Section 1 (named educational provision)
*data for this academic year is up to 31st March 2019. From this date, which has been preciously documented, the LA has implemented a new data base system for SEND and a thorough data review is currently taking place. This is due to be completed in February 2020, at which point we will be able to report on this data further.
2. The role of Local Authority Officers, within the SEND case work team, includes all complex case working, which include mediations and First Tier Tribunals, as these are statutory requirements, the costs are accounted for within their annual salaries. This has not been broken down into cost for tribunal work alone. On occasion, the officers have sought additional legal advice, when a case is particularly complex. This totalled just over £8,000 for 2018-19 The only other additional costs which may, on a few occasions be incurred, would be to reimburse witnesses time on attending and other expenses such as their parking fees.
Green Question 4 to the Mayor from Councillor Hance
Q1: How many EHCP statements were appealed in the last year (both as percentage and
Q2: How many were successful? (Both as a percentage and a number)
In 2018 the Local Authority received 28 First tier Tribunal appeals with regards to Education, Health and Care plans. This was out of 172 new EHCP issued (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statementsof-sen-and-ehc-plans-england-2019), therefore at a percentage of 16%. The number of which were ’Upheld’ were 4 with 4 ‘Not upheld’ demonstrating 50% were awarded in the Local Authorities favour.
Data for 2019 is currently being prepared for our SEN2 census return and will be published
later in the year.
For more detail with regards to EHCP and appeals over the last few years please refer also to response to Lib-Dem question 2.
Conservative Question 5 to the Mayor from Councillor Morris (Stockwood) – No supplementary questions
Subject: Fallout of the ‘SEND’ Inspection Report
I am sure the Mayor will agree with me that no one person or Party has a monopoly of caring or determination to resolve the failings in our SEND provision identified by this joint inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.
Q1. Can the Mayor state what practical steps are being taken to address the inspectors’ main concerns ‘about the effectiveness of the local area’? These range from lack of accountability through to the dysfunctional EHC plan process and the fracture relationships with parents and carers.
Q2. When will the required ‘Written Statement of Action’ be prepared, finalised and sent
1. The first formal priority is to produce the SEND Written Statement of Action (WSoA), however, we have already taken a number of steps to address the key findings of the report, particularly in relation to increasing capacity including allocating funding to recruit 24 new posts (23 of which specifically address EHC plan timeframes) and in addition, cleansing and building our dashboard of the key SEND data. Following development this dashboard will be openly available. We are also working closely with External Communications to engage and co-produce our SEND improvements, including the Local Offer website, with input from parents and carers.
Bristol City Council (BCC) and the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) are jointly responsible for submitting and delivering the written statement, which will set out the vision for improvement and the high priority actions that are required to address the weaknesses identified by the inspectors
2. Work on The WSoA has already started and over the coming three months, officers will be proactively engaging with parents, carers, young people and our key partners and stakeholders to ensure the WSoA and the detailed action plan, which sits behind this, have been co-produced.
Final amendments and sign off from the CCG Governing Body and BCC’s Children’s Improvement Board will have been completed by the beginning of March. Final submission to Ofsted/CQC is 28th March 2020 if Ofsted, on appraisal, consider it addresses the concerns identified in the letter, it will be published on the 10th April 2020.
Conservative Question 6 to the Mayor from Councillor Lesley Alexander (Frome Vale)
Subject: SEND Services
Q1. Will Members of the People Scrutiny Commission have an opportunity to contribute to the preparation of this plan given that it is due to hold an inquiry day on the specific issue of SEND services?
Q2. Is the Mayor prepared to commit to adequately resourcing schemes like ‘Project Rainbow’ which assists young people move into independent living?
1. The People’s Scrutiny SEND deep dive session will take place on 3rd February, which will
generate discussion, challenge and suggestions Officers will be in attendance in order to capture the feedback and ensure this is considered within the Written Statement of Action (WSoA)
2. We recognise the need for further improvement in our statutory assessment processes and have earmarked £1.4m to begin to address this, including recruiting 24 additional staff to deliver improvements to SEND. We are working with schools to identify further resources for 2021 to continue to drive the improvements we seek. This additional funding will be used to respond to the outcome of the SEND inspection, to ensure developments such as ‘Project Rainbow’, which is in year 4 of a 5 year term, can continue to be supported.
Conservative Question 7 to the Mayor from Councillor Steve Smith (Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze)
Subject: SEND Services
Q1. Will the Mayor instruct his Cabinet Member for Education & Skills and senor officers to provide scrutiny with a quarterly report on progress made to improve our SEND provision – notably on the timely production of EHC plans?
Q2. The Mayor’s Administration has rightly apologised for the problems which have existed in this service area for the last nine years. Can he tell me what steps are being taken to engage and build bridges with the families and carers of all those who have been let down by these failings?
1. Each of the priority areas for improvement, identified in the Written Statement of Action (WSoA), is being delivered through a detailed action plan, with operational oversight by theSEND Partnership Group. Overall progress will be monitored by the Children’s Improvement Board.
A SEND Data Dashboard is currently being developed, to bring together a wide range of related data, into a single document. Both the summary of progress against the WSoA, and the data dashboard, will form a significant part of the quarterly reporting to People’s Scrutiny.
2. A significant element of the WSoA will focus on repairing and strengthening our relationship with parents and carers and significantly increase the opportunities for meaningful coproduction, to ensure the systems and processes are fit for Bristol’s families Bristol’s Parent and Carer Group have membership of the critical groups and boards, to ensure there is strong family representation as we start the improvement journey. Already, there has been significant investment to improve capacity across a number of areas along with the restructuring of key teams to enable officers the time to support parents and carers through the system. The first of a series of workshops with parents and carers has already taken place and these will continue as we move forward Significant work is underway to re-design Bristol’s Local Offer website to ensure it becomes a useful and informative tool for our families. We will also be using this to regularly update the community on our improvement journey and increase transparency.
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