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The SEND inspection report for the Hertfordshire area partnership (covering the council and health services) gave us 2 "priority" areas we need to urgently fix, and 5 other areas where we must also show improvement.

Change will take time, but we have a detailed plan to make things better.

The plan was reviewed and approved by Ofsted/ CQC. The DfE have also issued an improvement notice to us. This is standard practice in these circumstances and our Priority Action and Improvement Plan will ensure we meet the requirements of the notice. 

Priority actions - the most important things the report told us to focus on

1: Improve the way we share SEND data and information across organisations, so everyone understands where to focus improvements.

More about this aim

We will use the data we have in a more intelligent way, to decide where improvements in services are needed. We will make data easier to use and learn from by making a new “dashboard”. This is one spreadsheet that everyone can view (within our organisations), where we will keep all of the key service information and numbers. We must work quickly to get this new reporting in place. 

We are putting methods in place to make sure we listen and record what children and young people tell us about their lives and services they use or need, and use this information to make improvements.


Data dashboard developed and in use

Our SEND Data Dashboard is developed and refreshed every month. The dashboard helps leaders to analyse performance in relation to EHCPs, health services and social care and includes feedback from families to support services to understand lived experience.

Collecting and using attendance data more effectively

We are on track to adopt software (by September 2024) which gathers school attendance data, and monitors this at an individual and strategic level. This will support early intervention to ensure children and young people can engage in education.

2: Leaders from all organisations need to work together better. They need to make sure that the work done by their services is high quality.

More about this aim

This "priority action" is about leaders in the council and health services working together effectively, with delivering this improvement plan as the key focus. Leaders will set this priority across all services, so we can achieve the aims of the improvement plan as quickly as possible.

We are putting things into place to make sure that the people in positions of leadership have the best ways to find out about what is happening in their services, so they can make the right decisions. We are changing the way our meetings work to improve this. This is known as our 'governance'. 

We will give children and young people opportunities to feed into this work and make sure leaders can listen and respond to what they tell us, through their decision making.

We will create guidelines that set out the expected quality of work that services should provide. We will develop ways to check that services are working to these guidelines.


New model for engaging with children and young people across Hertfordshire (June 2024)

We have launched Voices of Hertfordshire - a new model for engaging with children and young people at the individual, operational and strategic level across education, health and social care. This will increase opportunities for children and young people with SEND to help shape services.

The new model includes a number of 'youth councils' involving children through certain organisations including Services for Young People and the Integrated Care Board, and some special schools. We have also recruited 4 experts by experience who are consulted in service design and improvement work.

Keep up with the work of Voices of Hertfordshire on their YouTube and Instagram.

New quality framework launched in partnership (April 24)

The Partnership and Assurance Board endorsed a new SEND multi-agency Quality Assurance and Improvement Framework, jointly produced by partners across education, health and social care.

The framework includes the views of young people and parent/carers who were asked ‘what does good look like’ for them, leading to the creation of our 10 principles of quality. 

A key feature of the framework is the creation of a new 'SEND Quality Assurance Board'. They inspect the quality of services across education, health and social care and make sure that where improvements are identified action is taken. The Board (which features parent carer representation) held its first meeting in May 2024 to review the latest EHCP quarterly audit cycle.

In April - June 2024 the multi-agency quality assurance board found a 23% improvement from the baseline of EHCPs audited as being 'good' or 'better'. There is still a way to go to improve the quality of EHCPs, but this trajectory is positive. 

Improvement areas - important areas the report told us to improve on.

Improvement areas 1 and 4: Address the gaps and delays in service provision for children and young people with SEND. This includes services for autism, ADHD, mental health, audiology and speech and language

We are reporting on both of these improvement areas together because a lot of the work happening in our improvement services contributes to both these aims.

More about improvement area 1

'Leaders across the partnership should address the variability in children and young people’s access to health services that exists in different areas within the local area so that all children and young people with SEND in Hertfordshire have an equal opportunity to access appropriate provision and support that meets their needs.'

We need to redesign the way we assess children and young people for autism and ADHD so it is less confusing and the process is the same across Hertfordshire. We will improve the support children and their families get while they wait for assessment and make sure everyone can find excellent support no matter which area they live in.

We also aim to more get young people aged 14+ with learning disabilities attending the annual health checks they are entitled to.

More about improvement area 4

'Leaders should further address the gaps and delays in service provision to meet the full range of needs of children and young people with SEND. This includes services for ASD, ADHD, mental health, audiology and speech and language.'

We will stop waiting times from getting any longer, and make sure services exist for the things our families need help with. Over time, we will make waiting times for services shorter, but within our 18 month plan, we will "stabilise" the waiting times. Some particular things that families need more help with, and faster, are:

  • mental health
  • speech and language
  • ADHD and autism
  • audiology (hearing).

We will also make sure that when families do have to wait, they know where to get support in the mean time.

We are also helping schools to use a new tool (called Valuing SEND), which helps education staff to identify a child's needs. This can be useful as evidence when getting the right support from colleagues in health and social care, and helps the school to provide the right support to the child.


Increasing the opening hours of the neurodiversity hub support line

In our last update we shared with you that the Neurodiversity Hub has been expanded across Hertfordshire. The neurodiversity support hub offers support and guidance about anything relating to ADHD and Autism (no diagnosis necessary).

Following feedback from parent/carers and professionals, we have expanded the opening hours of the Neurodiversity Hub by recruiting more call handlers.

Reducing the number of children waiting for speech and language assessments

As of April 2024, the number of children and young people waiting for their Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT) EHC needs assessment report was 257, down from over 600 in 2023.
There is a large reduction in the number of children waiting for the longest time periods with 2.3% now waiting over 19 weeks, compared to 54% in Sep 2023.

Children and young person therapies online resources updated

After feedback from families, Children and Young Person's Integrated Therapies have refreshed their extensive online resources for parent/carers and professionals for children who might require Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy.

Training on ADHD for schools, informed by young people

Herts Parent Carer Involvement (HPCI) have supported the SEND Participation Lead in reaching out to families whose children have a diagnosis of ADHD to ask these young people what is important to know when working with them. 124 children and young people ranging from 7 - 24 years answered an online survey, which has informed ADHD training for schools currently being developed by the SEND Specialist Advice and Support service.

Reopening of children's audiology services

Children’s Hearing Services at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust are re-opening, in a staged way. The first services to have re-opened are those for 3 – 5 year olds and children over 5 years.

These services had been under review since mid 2023, with parts of the service paused, following an audit of paediatric audiology in England. This was happening nationally to ensure that quality of care was assured and national guidelines were followed. Auditory brainstem responses for babies and adult audiology services have been available throughout the review.

We’ll continue to keep you updated, but in the meantime, please email if you have any questions

2: Improve the quality of Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) documents.

More about this aim

EHCPs need to have really good information from professionals in them about the child’s needs and how to support them. The plan must also include the wishes and views of the child.

We are employing more professionals to work on EHCPs, aross a wider range of teams with specialised experience. They will have excellent training and support in the "SEND Academy". We are calling this programme, which has a £7million per year investment, "Making SEND everyone's business".

We will improve our guidelines that set out the expected quality of EHCPs. This will cover guidance for the annual review process too.


122 new staff appointed to services managing Education, Health and Care Plans

  • We have appointed 122 new staff through our workforce transformation programme, to improve experiences of the EHCP process. We currently have 95 new recruits trained through our SEND Academy and now working in services that manage EHCPs. 
  • We have launched a new survey for families and education settings to feedback on their experience of the Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment and EHCP processes.

At the end of June 2024, 55.9% of EHCPs were issued within 20 weeks. This compares to 41% for the whole of 2023. The target we have identified with Ofsted as a milestone on our improvement journey is 60% by March 2025. This is not a ceiling for our performance - our ambition is to support all children and young people in a timely way and be among the best performers in the country.

Improving the quality of EHCPs

We developed an EHCP Good Standards document, with input from parent/carers and schools, to provide clear guidelines to staff in education, health and care on what a good quality EHCP should look like.

Our next step is to publish this document on the Local Offer. We are also developing a summary version with Herts Parent Carer Involvement (HPCI) and our Experts by Experience.

70% of parents surveyed January - March 2024 were happy with the support outlined in their EHCP (up from 59% in October - December 2023).
Our EHCP quality audits show an increase in the number of plans rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ from 5% in July - September 2023 to 28% in April - July 2024.

There is still a long way to go. Findings from our auditing work helps us design training for staff. Read more about our journey to more effective, higher quality Education, Health and Care Plans.

We developed a standard Education, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Assessment template with parent/carers, for health providers submitting health advice towards the EHC needs assessment to improve consistency and quality of advice. 

"This is Me" form for capturing voice of the child in EHCPs

Our SEND Participation Lead, in partnership with the SEND Quality Assurance Team, Participation Team and children and young people, has developed the ‘This is Me’ tool.

The tool is a child and young person-friendly way of recording their views within EHCPs. It has been launched for staff and SENCOs. Workshops for parent/carers were held across May.

3: Make sure that children who have EHCPs are attending the right type of school for them.

More about this aim

If a child's EHCP says they need a place at a special school or other type of setting, we need to make sure the right places are available for them.

We continue to create new special school places and specialist resource provisions. We keep you up to date on this work on our page: Increasing specialist provision and school places in Hertfordshire.

We will also focus more on helping children who are out of school or with low attendance because of social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

We will improve the way we make decisions about placements for children with EHCPs, so they have the right type of school identified for them in the first place.

We will do more to track how well the existing schools and education settings we have (including alternative provision) are doing, so we know that they are effective in meeting their pupils' needs.  


Increasing specialist provision - the numbers

We are beginning to see an impact on the number of children and young people who are waiting for specialist provision. This is thanks to an increase in capacity of specialist provision brought about with investment of more than £131m, paired with a dedicated focus on finding suitable provision.

There has been a 64% reduction in the number of children and young people waiting over 1 year for specialist provision (67 children waiting in June 2024, down from 187 in September 2023).

Improvement to Provision Panel now in place

Four new SEND Panel Managers joined us in March 2024. They are responsible for 4 new locality-based SEND provision panels in Hertfordshire. This is a change away from the previous county-wide approach.

There are now 2 SEND provision panels per month per area, increasing the capacity to make timely decisions on children and young peoples’ provision and improve communication with families around this. Read more about the new SEND Provision Panels.

5: We should act to address parents’ and carers’ concerns at an early stage to reduce dissatisfaction and eliminate the need for parents and carers to have to follow formal routes of complaint.

More about this aim

We need to make sure all families in Hertfordshire can find information about SEND support and services when they need it.

We also need to communicate better with families who are receiving a service. This means making sure we actively provide updates, and answer calls and emails more promptly. We want to build trusted relationships with our families to help them feel confident in the service they are receiving.

We will make a formal process for communications that all organisations must follow, and create new staff training on the importance of communicating well with families.

In particular, we want to improve parent communication, experience and expectations around the EHCP process. One way we will do this is to increase the number of staff in the EHCP team as a whole. The Making SEND Everyone's Business work (as outlined in improvement area 2) will have a huge impact on improving communication.

We will commit ourselves to learning from previous complaints, by reviewing them and addressing patterns and themes in feedback.


Development of a new EHCP online portal

It will be easier for you to access information about your child or young person's EHC needs assessment and EHCP, through a new online portal. 

The portal is in development stage - beginning with the portal for those who are requesting an assessment, not those with an existing EHCP - and HPCI (our parent carer forum) have provided feedback to inform this.

From September, the first families to be offered the choice to try the portal will be those requesting an assessment in St Albans and Dacorum. In November, the rollout will extend to Watford and Three Rivers. In Januray 2025, it will be extended to the rest of Hertfordshire.

The portal will not replace direct communication with staff but will provide access to information whenever the user wishes to access the portal.

Rollout of the portal to families of children and young people with an existing EHCP will happen at a later stage beginning in 2025.

More staff in the Resolution and Reconciliation team

We have 3 new permanent members of our Resolution and Reconciliation Team. The team now have more capacity to support with resolving families' concerns at an earlier stage, with recruitment underway for a fourth officer.

SEND Improvement Plan webinar series

Across health and the council we are running a series of webinars to update you on SEND improvement work and what these changes mean for you. Our first webinar was about the ‘Making SEND Everyone’s Business’ workforce programme and how it will lead to improvements in experiences of the EHCP process. If you were unable to attend you can watch a recording of the MSEB webinar on our YouTube.

This page will be updated again at the end of October 2024.



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