Bristol City Council has finally updated its Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) Local Offer for parents, moving towards a ‘best endeavours’ approach. For a council who are already having to answer to Ofsted and the CQC for Send failure, ‘best endeavours’ is setting the bar so low it’s most likely buried in the ground.
The official statement on the council’s Local Offer website is fully optimised for ‘best endeavours,’ cramming the phrase into one page four times with an additional use of ‘reasonable endeavours’ – just to be sure.
The coronavirus delay will be something of a statistical boon to the council, whose ability to process EHCPs in legal timeframes has not happened with regularity in years.
In 2019, just three EHCPs out of 410 undertaken in the whole year were finished by Bristol City Council within the legal timeframe of 20 weeks.
The council says that the ‘continued closure of schools and colleges and the need of health and social care colleagues to focus their efforts on the delivery of frontline services will affect how well we can process EHC Needs Assessments’.
But the parents and carers of children going through the process have found that the involvement of health and social care was already poor to non-existent.
Chopsy Bristol’s Jen Smith says: “In the two-year EHCP process that I started for my daughter in August 2018 – which won’t end until September 2020 when she starts at a special school – attempting to include contributions from health and social care colleagues were already non-existent or a massive fight.
“Bristol City Council refused to involve a Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) in my daughter’s plan, instead relying on a brief classroom observation in 2017. It will be three years’ out of date when she finally starts at school. They also tried to block contributions from occupational therapy and attempting the involvement of Camhs was never going to happen.
“Reading through Bristol City Council’s EHCP ‘best endeavours’ process in place during coronavirus, I don’t see much that isn’t already happening. The service continues to be a disaster. A recent tribunal bundle for one of my children had a completely different parent and SendCo named in the legal documents. Coronavirus has become an excellent cover for some of the most slapdash and incompetent leadership possible.”
The council also says: “It will be harder for us to consult with schools and colleges to name in an EHC Plan because of school and college closures and less teachers being available,” covering the fact there simply are not enough special school places to go around anyway.
The statement goes on to say ‘we may have to state the school type but name the current school or college for now.’ But this is already happening, occurring throughout 2019 into 2020 again due to a lack of special school places in Bristol.
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