Statement and responses provided to The Times regarding enquiries made about special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services
A Sutton Council spokesperson said:
“Sutton supports 1,714 children and young people with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). We support a greater number of children with EHCPs than the national average (3.3% of our school population compared to 3.1% nationally). We currently issue 100% of our EHCPs within the statutory 20-week timetable. We also invest in more specialist schooling and support than the national average. Approximately 78% of our funding is spent on educating children and young people in specialist placements. We are doing all this whilst managing a 20% increase in requests for EHCP assessments. So far this year we are agreeing more requests for EHCP assessments than not. And Sutton has more decisions upheld at tribunal than the national average – our decision is upheld in 15% of cases compared to the 10% national average.
“We appreciate entirely the concerns of the small number of residents that have shared their experiences widely, however their experience clearly does not represent our improving service on the whole. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities funding and provision is a national issue that requires a national response. We will continue to make the case to Government on that basis.”
In response to specific questions the council added:
“Having agreed our Written Statement of Action with Ofsted in July 2018, we continue to improve our practices to ensure we are compliant with the Children and Families Act. Our quarterly monitoring meetings with the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England recognise our continued significant improvements.
“We have already given a public commitment to consider a new request for any child or young person who we have not previously agreed an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment for. Decisions about assessments are based upon the consideration of all relevant and up-to-date information about a child’s needs. Making a decision on reassessment based on historical information will not serve a family or child’s best interests. We have replaced guidance information available on our website to ensure it is clear.
“To support us further in our improvements, we have appointed an independent expert. The expert is reviewing our compliance with the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Code of Practice 2015, and related quality assurance processes. She is also reviewing the ways of working between the Council and its education services provider, Cognus.
“As agreed with Ofsted we commissioned a review of our high needs spending to inform our plans to continue to improve. The report and its findings are publicly available and have been shared with all contributors and stakeholders, including Sutton Parents Forum.
“We can categorically state that Cognus was at no time ever directed to make decisions regarding assessment based on inappropriate financial considerations. The funding and investment for supporting Education, Health and Care Plans is not held by Cognus, but the council. There is no financial incentive to Cognus to undertake, or not, Education, Health and Care Plan Needs Assessments. As Cognus is wholly owned by the public sector no individual benefits from any profit or surplus. To suggest that Cognus or the council has profited from denying requests for assessment is blatantly untrue, deeply distressing and has given rise to unnecessary worry among the many other families we continue to support.”