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We want all SEND services, support and provision (sometimes called the Local Offer) to be as good as it possibly can and that’s why your feedback is so important to us.

On this page we regularly publish the comments we've received about the Local Offer and the actions we've taken in response. This feedback can help up improve and develop:

  • the accessibility of information on the Local Offer website
  • how local service offers have been developed or reviewed
  • the quality of existing provision and any gaps in the provision

How we are responding to the biggest challenges in SEND in Hertfordshire

We understand that not getting a response or having to wait a long time is frustrating. It’s not good enough and although we know there is a national resource issue, we’re sorry if we haven’t always been able to get this right for every family in Hertfordshire.

We want you to know that we are listening and we’re working hard to make improvements. We cannot make these changes overnight, we need time to recruit more SEND officers, to catch up on outstanding enquires and to increase space at existing schools or even build new ones.

We want to say thank you to every child or young person with SEND and their families for your continued patience and understanding while we work towards making these improvements and especially to those who have taken the time to engage in this process with us and with HPCI.

You said

It's hard to contact anyone from the SEND Team in relation to the EHCP process.

We know that some parents and carers may be experiencing delays in getting through to our SEND team and we understand that can be frustrating. Unfortunately, we’ve got reduced resources right now but we’re working hard to try and get back to you as quickly as we can. 

We did 

Our Customer Service Centre (CSC) is now supporting the SEND Team with enquiries to their duty lines. We have trained our CSC staff to use our new EHCPs online system, meaning they will be able to answer most enquiries straight away, and advise who your named SEND Officer is. The more complex queries will be passed to your SEND officer, and the person you speak to will book a timed slot for them to call you back.  We’ve blocked time for officers to respond to enquires so that, if you do need to leave us a message, we’ll make sure that someone calls you back within 5 days. Our SEND colleagues will also aim to respond to emails or letters within 2 weeks (10 working days). 

Here are the duty lines for each team. Each line is available 9am - 5.30pm Monday - Thursday, and 9am - 4.30pm Fridays.

East Herts, Broxbourne, Welwyn and Hatfield - 01992 588 562

North Herts and Stevenage - 01438 843 758

St Albans and Dacorum - 01442 453 300

Watford, Three Rivers and Hertsmere - 01442 454 012

You said

What is being done about about the lack of SEND Officers in Hertfordshire?

Nationally there is a shortage of SEND officers and this makes it challenging to get specialist support to all of the families that need our help as quickly as we’d like to.

We did

We have been successful in getting some extra resource into the SEND service; however we need more and are continuing to actively recruit for SEND officers. We’ve also recruited some support staff to help us to try and record incoming enquiries and help our SEND officers to respond to families as quickly as possible. 

You said

What is being done about the backlog of annual reviews?

The number of EHCPs nationally has increased significantly over the last 2 years, and Hertfordshire is no exception to this. 

We did

We employed a new team dedicated to clearing our EHC review backlog earlier this year, and they have processed over 3000 reviews since February. We have also changed the way that EHCP reviews are received from September, and reviews now go first to this dedicated Review team. This team operates a triage system, processing any straight forward reviews swiftly when received, with more complex reviews escalated to SEND officers. This new system will free up time for the SEND officers to focus on the more in-depth casework with schools and families and will prevent a new backlog of reviews building up.

To help manage the annual review process in the future, we are rolling out a new online tool for schools to send to the SEND team following EHCP reviews. 20 special schools are currently using or being trained on the system. We have had great feedback from schools already using this tool. The new system saves lots of administrative time and supports officers to accurately process changes to EHCPs following review. We plan to roll this tool out to local colleges next, and then mainstream secondary schools. 

You said

There aren't enough special school places in Hertfordshire. What are you doing about this?

Hertfordshire, in common with many local authorities, is experiencing high demand for specialist provision. We have created 233 new places in special schools in the past 2 years and there are further exciting developments on the way.

We did

Our Special School Place Strategy 2020-23 sets out our commitment and investment to create over 300 new permanent special school places, and the development of a countywide pattern of specialist resource provision in mainstream schools, in the next 5 years, including creating 60 new places for this term.

The priorities we have set out for 2020 - 2023 are:

Creating more places in severe learning disabilities/ physical and neurological impairment schools

We have approximately 200 new places planned with delivery from as early as September 2023.

Slightly increasing places in learning disability schools

The planned rebuilding of The Valley Special School, Stevenage, will create 15 new places from January 2023.

Delivering 2 new communication and autism schools for children whose needs don't fit into what special schools can currently provide

We want to meet the needs of pupils for whom a traditional social, emotional and mental health school would not be appropriate. These pupils will usually have autism or a social communication difficulty; significant anxieties; mental health issues and sensory needs. These pupils have often experienced trauma and have developed negative views of school resulting in anxiety based school avoidance/phobia. We are meeting these needs through the development of:

  • a new 60 place Communication and Autism secondary special school in Welwyn Garden City (delivered by the DfE Free School programme), earliest opening September 2023  
  • a new 60 place Communication and Autism primary special school in the centre of the county, phased opening from 2023 at the earliest. 

Developing Specialist Resource Provision (SRP) across Hertfordshire

We are proposing the development of:

  • 4 SRPs in secondary schools, each for up to 20 pupils (3 by Sep 2022, 1 by Sep 2023)
  • Up to 10 SRPs in primary schools, each for up to 12 pupils (to open by 2023)

This new proposal will provide a total of 188 places distributed equally across the county. Learn more about our work on specialist resource provision.

You said

How are you supporting children with complex needs when there are no special school places?

There is no doubt that we need more special school places for some children with complex needs, including learning disabilities. We know that it will take time to achieve this, however we are committed to making sure that all children and young people with SEND in Hertfordshire have access to the right, nurturing environment to allow them to learn and to thrive.

We did

Where children cannot be placed in a special school, we work hard to find them a safe, suitable alternative in a local mainstream school. Most mainstream schools have excellent SEN support and promote inclusive learning for all of their students. We are working with special schools, specialist and alternative provision on plans to ensure that there are enough local places that meet pupils' needs in the short term, whilst we embed other initiatives.

In order to support children and young people awaiting a place at a social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) Special School we have increased the number of children at 2 of our Education Support Centres by providing at additional 12-15 places at Key Stage 4.
We are in advanced discussions with another Behaviour Service and aim to provide an additional 6 - 10 places for Key Stage 2 children awaiting an SEMH Special School in 2022.

Website feedback reports

In 2020 we gratefully received over 1150 pieces of feedback about the Local Offer website and suggestions from you about how we can continue to improve the information available. Over time we have been able to group these individual comments into wider themes and have been working on tackling some of these issues ever since

Website feedback report 2020-2021

You said

When schools first closed due to Covid, you said you needed more online resources for home learning.

We did

We set up an enhanced resource area on our website and as a result we saw our web traffic increase significantly on these pages. You can read more about this on our 'resources area re-visited' blog.

You said

When people were asked to wear masks due to Covid, you said you needed more information on face-covering exemptions.

We did

We created a separate face-covering exemption webpage with information on who is considered exempt from these rules, and downloadable printable forms for you to use.

You said

You needed more information about the role of a SENCo in schools

We did

We created a new webpage about getting help at school from your SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), co-produced with 16 of our parents from our SEND Online Feedback Group.

You said

You were finding it hard to find contact details for the teams they needed

We did

Services have created new duty lines during the pandemic and we are working to make these easily available to people by sharing the details on the website and on social media. We are building a ‘contact’ page so people can find everything in one place.

You said

You were finding it hard to keep up with the ever-changing situation in the coronavirus pandemic

We did

We created a new coronavirus section of the website, which evolved throughout the changing pandemic to disseminate messages, and which we also shared via social media.

You said

You thought the Preparing for Adulthood section of the website was not detailed enough and information was missing

We did

We conducted a full co-produced review of the Preparing for Adulthood webpages, adding brand new pages and topics and working with both parents and young people.  You can find out more about this on our blog post about improving our online content for PFA.

Website feedback report 2019-2020

You said

You told us that you want to see information that is relevant to specific educational needs such as Dyslexia and Dyscalculia.

We did

In order to make sure that we are providing relevant information for everybody, with any kind of need, we constantly refer to our website analytics to make sure that we are picking up on specific search terms. We then make sure that those search terms will take a person straight to the correct support pages.

You said

You told us that you needed more clarity around Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).

We did

Last year we only had one webpage dedicated to EHCPs. After listening to your comments, we have gone on to publish information about the entire EHCP process and the support available to you, resulting in an additional 5 webpages of information.

You said

You told us that you would like to see some sentences reworded or rephrased in order to make them more factual.

We did

We have reconsidered our language and word choices in situations where an action is compulsory to reflect our legal obligations.

You said

You told us that you wanted to see all the different services, organisations and support groups listed on webpages that are relevant to your child or young person.

We did

We are currently working with the Hertfordshire Directory team to ensure the quality and maintenance of organisation and service information and shall continue to link to this information from our webpages wherever possible.

You said

You told us that contact details for services or teams are not always obvious.

We did

We will continue to ensure that relevant contact details on individual service pages are presented clearly, and during times of disruption we make sure to display any details of advice lines or other temporary support networks that can help with quick queries and concerns. Where it’s not possible to provide specific contact details, we have our general Local Offer email address, where there will always be someone who can help with your query.

You said

You told us that you wanted to see more information about helping your child or young person prepare for the next stages in their life.

We did

We are constantly working with relevant teams and individuals to ensure that the information on our Preparing for Adulthood pages is up-to-date and accurate. We also have two ‘Experts by Experience’ on our team who are the voice of young adults with SEND, reviewing first-hand the accuracy of the information in this area of the Local Offer.

You said

You told us that you needed resources to help you support your child or young person with their learning from home.

You told us that you wanted to be able to have the option to leave more detailed feedback.

We did

We published our Resources Area which is full to the brim with usable documents, websites, apps and printable materials for families and professionals.

You said

You told us that you wanted to be able to have the option to leave more detailed feedback.

We did

We have a pop-up feedback poll on all webpages that allows you to both rate the webpage and add additional details. We also have our own online research group composed of parents and carers of children or young people with SEND and young people with SEND aged 16 – 25.

You said

 You told us that you needed to know whether you could get childcare help.

We did

 We know that it is vital that parents of children with SEND are able to access regular childcare and wraparound care options and so we have a webpage specifically dedicated to this information.

UPDATE: in 2021 we have refreshed and expanded our early years area, which has included updating the way we share childcare information

You said

You told us that you needed more information and looking and specific definitions of types of special schools.

We did

We are constantly updating our information on special schools. You can view our updated special schools information here.

Our Experts by Experience

Excitingly in 2020 we also recruited two ‘Experts by Experience’ to join the team. Our Experts by Experience are two individuals with learning needs who we work closely with to help inform our decision making and understanding of exactly what it is our users need.

Read our Experts by Experience blog to find out a little more about the people behind the title and exactly what it is they have been up to.

Responding to feedback in other services

Children and Young Person's Therapy Services

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust (HCT) provides services like Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Physiotherapy to children and young people in Hertfordshire.  Responding to feedback they have received about the service, they have made the following improvements:

  • There is now a single point for referrals to the Therapy Service making it easier for parents, carers and professionals and allowing a quicker response to queries. This also allows for services to work to statutory timeframes and improved monitoring systems
  • They have made improvements in the quality of the service, including increasing the number of appointments available
  • They have introduced an Integrated Advice Line for parents and professionals for all 3 therapy disciplines with a message facility available 24/7, and with daily call back from therapists  
  • Universal Sensory Information sessions are now available for parents and carers without the need for a referral to the OT service. This will give parents a greater understanding and confidence to support their child earlier in their journey, minimising risk of longer term impacts.
  • Various training sessions and workshops have been developed for parents, carers and professionals that can be accessed virtually 
  • You said: you wanted school staff training to include specific info about your children's sensory needs 
    We did: we created a new sensory training package for school staff to be delivered this summer
  • You said: the provision in EHCP reports was sometimes not clear enough
    We did: we have updated our EHCP reports to improve the specificity in the health provision 
  • You said: you sometimes have to wait too long at the SLT drop in clinics
    We did: we now offer bookable virtual screening clinics for SLT and OT

Early Years

In response to feedback from their service users, our Early Years team have been making improvements to the Early Years offer for children with SEND and/or additional needs.  Here are some improvements they have recently made to better support families of young children with emerging needs:

  • A new role of SEND Champions has been created in family centres.  The SEND Champions have all received training from HPCI into how to signpost parents to access better information and advice. They will also be receiving training from our Specialist Advisory Teachers in autism awareness and basic awareness of SEND.
  • Making it clearer to families the different pathways of Early Years support a child may access


The CAMHS service are working hard on improvements they have identified after feedback from their service users and are finding ways of  transforming mental health services for children and young people.

Integrated Services for Learning

When the pandemic hit last year and schools were closed, we all had to find new ways of working.  To help support children at home, the Integrated Services for Learning Specialist Advisory Teams created and provided new resources which were made easily available to parents, carers and teachers on our website. 

They also extended their Advice Line service to help support parents of children with SEND who were struggling with the home learning.

Where appropriate, the teams were able to set up video-call meetings with children and support them remotely. 

Short Breaks, Overnight Stays and Homecare

Short Breaks

Our short breaks service offers disabled children and young people the chance to spend time out with others socialising and doing activities, whilst giving their families a break and providing them with the confidence that they are safe with trained carers .  In the last year, HCC has been working hard with the organisations who provide the Short Break Local Offer (‘SBLO’), to ensure that these services have adapted to be Covid-safe.  

Due to Covid,  the planned recommissioning has been put on hold and in the meantime we have been focussing on making sure existing services are safe for children, as well as working with our providers to improve their virtual offer.   We will be reviewing the virtual offer and use the learning post-covid to decide whether it will be valuable to families to continue running a virtual offer in the future.  

Overnight Short Breaks

We have responded to service-users feedback and have been working hard during the pandemic to keep this important service open.   The service provides a break for parents and carers, whilst their children stay, for a short amount of time, in a safe and suitable setting. Having access to this support has important benefits for both carers and their children, helping the carer continue to care for their child and providing the child with a change from daily routine and an opportunity to develop new skills and mix with their peers.

The recommissioning of the service (which we were planning as a result of feedback from service users) has been put on hold to avoid extra pressure on the service in these difficult times, and will now go out to tender in 2021, for a new service to be put in place in 2022.

In the meantime, we have been able to carry out other improvements to the service:

  • All staff have received infection-control training
  • We have re-viewed the health training of our providers to enable access to more users (e.g. gastrofeeding and epilepsy)  
  • In April, we set up a Covid isolated suite for children with Covid who can’t be looked after at home  
  • We have worked together with parents and carers to update the current delivery model and ensure that the services are consistent across the county, that they are of good quality and are delivering best value.

Home Care

Homecare provides support to Children and Young People with SEND and their families in their home and community and is another priority service which we have kept running throughout Covid.  The impact of the pandemic on families in the past year has proved challenging and some families chose not to receive their homecare, whilst others found they needed more support.  We have met these families’ different needs and have also ensured the home care market was supported during the lockdown so that these services will still exist to families post-Covid.  All of the staff working in our home care providers have been fully trained in infection-control and are given all the PPE needed to keep themselves and their clients safe.

Ask, Listen, Do

Ask, Listen, Do is a project led by NHS England that aims to make it easier for people with SEND and their families to issue feedback, voice their concerns or make a complaint. The initiative aims to support organisations to learn from and develop better ways of using feedback to help improve services across education, health and social care.

We (Hertfordshire County Council) are working in partnership with NHS England on the Ask, Listen, Do project. 

For more information visit NHS England or you can view the easy read leaflet.

Page was last updated on: 16/12/2021 15:48:49


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