Central Beds' SEND failures blasted as 'catastrophic for countless families' at scrutiny meeting

Failures in Central Bedfordshire’s care of children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) have been "catastrophic for countless families", a parent has said.

Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 4:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 11:34 pm

Last month, an inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found the performance of CBC and Beds Clinical Commissioning Group to be “ineffective”.

At today's CBC overview and scrutiny board meeting, Conservative councillor Sue Clark, CBC's executive member for families and children, was unable to attend due to a family emergency. Beds CCG’s director of nursing and quality Anne Murray was also not present.

Nevertheless, members of the Central Beds SEND Action Group (see their Facebook page here) were present to demand answers.

Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Dunstable resident Amy Irvins, speaking for parents, told today's meeting: “The extensive failures outlined in the recent Ofsted report have been catastrophic for countless families.

“Since the SEND action group was set up five weeks ago, more than 550 people have joined and there has been an endless stream of distressing stories.

“Parents, carers and schools are facing a constant battle to get the most basic support.

“Parents and children are having mental health breakdowns and dozens of children are out of school.”

Ms Irvins was praised for her speech after the meeting by Independent Aspley & Woburn councillor John Baker, who has been thanked by the action group for his ongoing support along with opposition members Labour Parkside councillor Antonia Ryan, Independent Ampthill councillor Mark Smith and Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny.

Councillor Zerny told today's meeting that heads should roll following the highly critical Ofsted report.

He said: “In September, we were told everything was okay. Two months later, Ofsted and the CQC did their review. Apparently, at that point, there were major issues.

“So either the senior officers and senior councillors involved were completely unaware of this problem, or they concealed it, both of which in my opinion are resignation issues.

“I have spoken to a number of junior officers who are at their wits’ end about the lack of resources provided to them and for parents.

“What I found disgraceful this morning is hearing about journeys ... and how it’s lovely the parents are here.

“It’s not lovely. It’s horrifying they have had to be here today."

Director of children’s services Sue Harrison said: “I apologise if anything we said at the last scrutiny appeared to be defending an indefensible position.

“The system needs to work much better together.

“That’s what causes the frustration for parents because you have that unique viewpoint of seeing when those bits of the system don’t work well together.

“We have got some successes. I would urge any parent to meet myself and my colleagues.

“We’ve got limited resource and we need to make the best of that resource by working with parents.

“I will be held to account by the progress we make. I am not going to offer you empty assurances.

“I am offering you an action plan and offering parents a seat at the table,” she added.

“In the spirit of openness and transparency, all my teams want to work with parents to address your concerns.

“It needs to be monitored and it will be. And we’ll show you we mean what we say to ensure you’re not only heard, but that things change as a result of what we hear.”

CBC has yet to confirm arrangements for two public meetings regarding their SEND services.

> Have you got a story to share about SEND provision? Email [email protected] and we'll get back to you.