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More Frequently Asked Questions

SEND Portal

Why use the SEND Portal?

The SEND Portal is a secure online resource provided by Swindon Borough Council that enables parents/carers/young people and those professionals working with a child or young person to register and then provide information to the SEND Service (in relation to SEND) about a child/young person.

For more information please see the SEND Portal Page

The SEND Portal isn't working, who do I contact?

Please contact SENAT and let them know SENAT@swindon.gov.uk.                

SEND Service

What does an EHCP Co-ordinaotor do?

A case officer working in the SEND Service in the Statutory Team at Swindon Borough Council who is the point of contact for parents. They give information and advice about statutory assessments Education health and Care Plans and Statements of SEND.

For more information on EHCP Co-ordinators please view the Meet the SEND Service page.

How do I contact my EHCP Co-ordinator? And what do I do if my Co-ordinator is unavailable?

To find the contact details of the SEND Service please view the Meet the SEND Team page by clicking here

Is there anyone in the SEND Team who specialises in and has understanding of children who live with trauma and associated difficulties relating to trauma? Do co-ordinators have specialisms within special educational needs they have knowledge and understanding of?

There are no national minimum standards for SEND co-ordinators and this is an issue that we are constantly raising with the DFE. If you consider this in the same arena as social workers they have minimum standards; their caseloads are capped at 20 and there is an annual requirement for a minimum amount of CPD – SEND Caseworkers, no minimum standards, caseloads of approximately 360 and no agreed CPD. We have just undertaken a huge amount of recruitment and we have been able to appoint staff from a wide range of backgrounds from early years to post 16 and it is our intention to develop these skill sets within the team. First and foremost though we need to invest in these staff to ensure that they have a robust induction and training, keep caseloads manageable and ensure that they are support as we need to keep a stable workforce. Stability is the key to the success of any SEND team.

How could communication between parents and the SEND Service be improved? There are many times when better information sent out at appropriate times could both reduce anxiety and confusion for parents, and prove more efficient for your team as you wouldn’t have to keep answering the same questions.

There is room for improvement without a doubt and front door is a part of the process. We have introduced a day one call for all new assessments; we have secured significant investment from SBC to recruit additional staffing for both the operations team, and Statutory Team – this is a unique model in Swindon with a dedicated operations team to support the statutory functions but still very new;  new ways of working from September as just described. Weekly SEND News Splash; Monthly newsletter for parents launching later this month (this will not be a repeat of the News Splash); updated Local Offer, social media plans (Kickstart);  Working with SSFV to develop other ideas, but would love to hear your suggestions please email the SEND Inbox with any suggestions (SENDService@swindon.gov.uk)

Why are parents being discouraged from contacting their EHCP Coordinator directly? Instead they are being asked to call the helpline or contact the general SEND email. This does not fit with the local authority’s attempt for parents to not need to repeat information and tell them once. It is also a very impersonal service to stressed and worried parents.

This links to the question about how the communication between parents and the SEND Service can be improved. In the main parents were complaining about this previous system so a front door was introduced to ensure that all contacts are captured. Each contact that comes through the front door is recorded, triaged and passed on to the relevant Co-ordinator to action and/or respond. Also if contact goes direct to EHCP Co-ordinator’s we will not be able to report any data around this and, in order to ensure we are able to maintain a stable team, we use the data to make cases for more officers. The data over the past six months has been crucial in demonstrating that the capacity within the operations team is not sufficient and we have just been able to recruit another full time Delivery Support Officer to support this function. Without capturing this data this would not have been possible.

If a parent has multiple children with SEN needs, why are the children given different EHCP coordinators?

Yes agreed and this has already been changed - we had a multi-birth family who had a few co-ordinators as this is how the rota fell, this was picked that up and it was changed immediately and this will not happen going forward and in fact the new ways of working will also ensure that this does revert back to previous system. If this happens to you in the future please highlight immediately and this will be resolved (pending previous co-ordinators remaining in the team)

Having co-ordinators within the SEND Team who have knowledge of specific conditions who liaise with parents/school SENCos would make EHC Plans/Reviews easier to understand and then easier to understand the reasoning behind why parents ask for specific support to be put in place for their child. Would it be possible for a system like this within the SEND Team? As I understand it currently co-ordinators are assigned to schools rather than needs of the child?

We are changing the way that we operate within the team from September 2021. At the minute all co-ordinators have a complete range of work from statutory assessments, to annual reviews including placement changes, mediations, tribunals etc. They are constantly juggling conflicting priorities and legal timeframes. So from September 2021 we have created an Assessment Hub which will be led by Ben Stone as team leader and will work on new requests for assessment from Day one to completion within 20 weeks. Alongside this we will have a Reviewing Hub that will consist of three teams – A North Team, a South Team and a Preparing for Adulthood. To find out who is in the Statutory SEND Service Team and how to contact them, please go to the Meet the SEND Service Team.

 

More detail around this will be communicated prior to September 2021. We hope that you will start to the benefits of this model but there will be teething problems along the way that we will need to address as they arise.

Also, how many caseworkers are ipsea trained as we still struggle with the law being followed still?

All of the team received IPSEA training, the new recruits need to complete this and there will be plans in place for this to happen. All SEND Staff complete the Council’s Mandatory Training including the 9 SEND Training Modules.

How much money have you spent on appeals/tribunal process?

This is difficult to answer as each case is individual and some will involve more officer time and expert time than others. To obtain this information would require a significant amount of work but moving forward it is something that we need to consider how we capture this.

It’s great that there are lots of new recruits, but staffing is not a recent issue. Why is recruitment so very difficult?

Recruitment of SEND Co-ordinators is a national problem; retention of good quality staff is difficult for all the reasons stated previously, no national minimum standards, no CPD pathways, large unmanageable caseloads, juggling conflicting priorities on a daily basis, lack of professional respect from other sectors and abuse are not unique to Swindon it is a national issue but one that must be addressed. 

It is important for everyone to remember that case co-ordinators are human and to feel a ‘dread’ of coming into work every day is not appropriate. We need to develop an open honest culture where there is an acceptance that case co-ordinators have a difficult job to do and are doing their best, no one comes into work to do a bad job. Case co-ordinators in Swindon are currently working exceptionally long hours and weekends to try and keep on top of workload and this is not touching the surface as we see an increase for statutory needs assessment. This will ease once our new recruits are fully operational.

Plans shouldn’t be finalised to meet post 16 deadline with no provision named, but a description. This is effectively creative accounting as it would show the la finalised the plan within time, which wasn’t the case. How can you then keep track of these plans?

The Code of Practice enables the Local Authority to name a type of provision and there are a few cases where this has been necessary whilst work continues to identify the right placement for the young person so this is not creative accounting as the legislation allows this. The LA has a number of trackers that show where it has been necessary to name a type rather than specify a provision and the individual case co-ordinators will also be aware that there is further work to do and will be doing this work to identify the appropriate provision in consultation with the young person and their parents. Once a placement is agreed an amendment to the plan will be issued to update Section I.

Education, Health and Care Plan Process

When is my new annual review date, which was delayed due to Lockdown?

The school SENCO should arrange the date for annual reviews in conjunction with pupils, parents/carers and other professionals involved.

For more information on the Annual Review of an Education, Health and Care Plan process please click here

What is panel? What is the process?

To find out more about the panel process, click her to view the SEND Panel information and feedback

My child has SEN but doesn’t require SEN provision, what does that mean?

The ‘assess – plan – do – review’ approach known as the graduated response is the expected response to the identification of SEN, as outlined in the SEND Code of Practice 0-25 (2015).

To find out more about the graduated response please view the Core Standards pages.

If a parent has multiple children with SEN needs, why are the children given different EHCP Co-ordinators?

Yes agreed. Parents with multiple children with SEN needs will not be allocated multiple EHCP Co-ordinators and this has already been changed.  This happened previously because we had a multi-birth family who had a few co-ordinators as this is how the rota fell. This was picked up and it was changed immediately. This will not happen going forward and in fact the new ways of working will also ensure that this does revert back to the previous system. If this happens to you in the future please highlight immediately and this will be resolved (pending previous co-ordinators remaining in the team).

Who to talk to about the appeal process?

Information on how to appeal will be on the decision letter from the local authority, and there is more information about this process on GOV.UK: Appeal an Education, health and care (EHC) plan.
If you need advice or support with this process you can contact the SEND information advice and support service (SIAS).

Why are some assessment for an EHCP case sent to panel without any information from the child’s school and then write to parents to say the local authority will not carry out an assessment as there isn’t enough evidence?

This question probably relates to a parental request, as a school request would usually provide all the information as part of the graduated approach; however with a parental request it is our duty to ask the school for advice they do not need to respond, most do but some don’t and if this is not forthcoming within the 6 week period the LA still has a legal duty to consider the request, make a decision and inform the parents, to wait outside of this period would mean that the LA is prejudicing the parental right of appeal and would be in breach of its legal duties and would be operating a non-compliant process. It is really important that if you are considering a making a parental request for assessment that you speak to the school first to ensure that they have sufficient evidence to support this unless there are exceptional circumstances that require urgent assessment.

Health Services

How are Swindon Borough Council looking to help children and young people with Pathological (aka Extreme) Demand Avoidant (PDA) Profile of Autism? Will Swindon be investing in commissioning PDA specific training to improve outcomes for PDA individuals? Will Swindon be making a local position statement on PDA?

PDA is not a diagnosis, it is an element of the ASD diagnosis and some CYP have traits of PDA but what is important here is to be able to meet the young person’s presenting needs and not the diagnosis. There are a range of ASD awareness courses available and our Autism Support Service (ASC) Team are constantly looking to improve the offer. To contact the ASC Team, view their Local Offer page: Swindon Local Offer - Swindon Autism Support Service

There are no plans to invest in commissioning PDA specific training as any specific training related to the PDA elements of the ASD spectrum would be for the CCG. There is more information on Autism: Demand Avoidance on the Local Offer: Swindon Local Offer - Autism: Demand Avoidance

Swindon Send Families Voice will be raising local position statements re PDA with Clinical Commissioning Group colleagues at their next meeting, and should be able to offer further information in due course.

Education

What is a SENCo?

A SENCo or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator is a teacher with responsibility for the planning and monitoring of the special educational provision within your child's school

For more defenitions like this please view the Jargon Buster.

Are meeting minutes/notes taken at the meetings where Sen school places are allocated?

Yes they are. It is the allocation decision ,and the reasons why the allocation was made, that are recorded. They are not, however, recorded individually by the panel but on a spreadsheet with all the children and young people (CYP) discussed. Therefore, this spreadsheet is not released, however, the co-ordinator presenting the case will have an individual record of the decision. If you wanted to obtain a decision specific to your CYP you can make a subject access request to the Council.

Will you be able to address the lack of special needs placements in the Swindon Area and if so how?

We have commissioned an additional 55 special school placements in Swindon for September 2021 due to the increased demand and we are currently writing a specialist provision sufficiency plan which will include reviews of other provisions within the area e.g SRPs and Units, we are keen to have the right provision in the right place at the right time. The review into SRP and unit provision will commence in September 2021.

Is there a possibility in the future that all primary schools could offer specialist units with appropriately trained staff?

A good approach would be to firstly develop such provisions within a cluster of schools however with the Governments drive for MATS and Free Schools this limits the LA’s opportunities to develop. However the review as outlined above will provide us with more detail and enable us to scope out future requirements.

Why are schools being told to involve parents if there is a disagreement between school and LA on banding level issues, whilst the provision is agreed on the EHCP?

They are not, this is not something that the Local Authority would suggest. It maybe that the school are seeing parental involvement as a way to escalate discussions but this is not appropriate. Provision listed on the EHCP must be delivered and School’s receive three different elements of funding to deliver this.

If there was a school available that catered for these children with services attached such as therapeutic services, physio, OT, mental health then most of their needs could be met within the school setting. This would reduce the cost of sending children outside of the borough for placements and the added transport costs to get them there. It would also reduce the burden on the NHS services such as physio, OT, speech and language, CAMHS etc as most would be offered within the school setting. I am fully aware there would be a huge cost initially but in the future years would this then be gained back by having a specialist trauma school within the borough?

Many councils do not have the budgets available to enter into invest to save projects and Swindon has just received an allocation of funding from the DFE for SEND Capital Development of £1.6 million does not even touch the surface. There is currently a South West regional project that is looking at future requirements for very specialist provisions, this is in the early stages of gathering data sets across the region but this has the potential for some exciting developments over the next five years.

How long is it deemed reasonable from the SEND Team for a child to be out of education due to lack of placements or funding or the panel not agreeing with the parents and professionals?

No time is reasonable and we are aware that this has been an issue in the past, each case is individual but rest assured we are working hard to address this.

What happens if a parent and a school are not aligned on need for assessment?

It is rare that parents disagree with school on the need for assessment as school requests require parental agreement to proceed but what we do see is schools disagreeing with parental requests for assessments and this is where we encounter some difficulties. We would really advocate that if you are considering making a parental request for assessment that you discuss this with the School and SENCo prior to making the request.

We were told the designated social worker wouldn’t talk to parents, only to school?

As part of the ‘new’ process all requests for social work advice is managed through MASH and triaged as to what actions are needed. We are not aware of the statement above.

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