EA and HCAN Policy Committees Update - December 2019

Educational Achievement Policy Committee and Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees

The Educational Achievement Policy Committee and the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees met jointly in Manchester on Friday 20 September. For the first item, the group was joined by Suzanne Lunn, Deputy Director for SEND at the DfE, to provide an update on national developments around SEND. There has been renewed focus in this area with various inquiries underway and the government has launched a SEND review which will look at a range of issues. The group stressed the importance of better join up at the national level between the DfE and DHSC and it is hoped that the SEND leadership board will help better connect the two departments in areas such as joint commissioning. The group also discussed the need for greater inclusivity in mainstream schools in supporting pupils with SEND and noted that MATs must be involved in any joint working or conversations to improve this. Suzanne explained that there is now a commitment to developing the new SEND code of practice by 2020 for implementation from April 2021.

Following this, Ian Lewis from NHS England joined the group to provide an update on the NHS Long-Term Plan with an overview of progress made to date and priorities for the future. As part of his update Ian reported that over 180 Mental Health Support Teams are in the process of being established; Local Transformation Plans will continue for at least another year; and there is a focus on extending current service models to create a better offer for 0-25 year olds that reaches across mental health services and does not just focus on transition periods. The group fed back that recruiting practitioners to keep pace with demand has been difficult in some areas. Further, our definition of the mental health workforce can differ from the NHS definition; we need to know where other roles fit into the system, such as Family Support Workers and SENCOs.

The group was then joined by Lynsey Burridge, NAVSH Chair, to discuss the role of the Virtual School Head (VSH) one year on since its remit was extended to support previously looked-after children. Lynsey explained that many VSHs have taken on extra responsibilities due to LA pressures but have not received additional resourcing and this has acted as a barrier to VSHs meeting their new duty. Going forward, the Children in Need review recommended further expansion of the role of the VSH to include children ever known to children’s social care. The group warned that there is a risk of ever expanding the cohort who are supported by the virtual school and we must be clear on the remit of the role.

Finally, the group was joined by Richard Caulfield from the Association of Colleges (AoC) to discuss some of the pressures in the FE sector, particularly in supporting vulnerable children and young people, some of whom may have been excluded from mainstream school. FE colleges share some of the same challenges as LAs, such as supporting young people who have SEND, are home educated, or have been in alternative provision. However, as colleges are funded to teach students for 15 hours per week, this can leave some young people who are vulnerable to youth violence and exploitation with significant amounts of free time during which they could potentially be exposed to risk. The group highlighted that a lack of funding for FE is a big issue for children’s services where there are clear common pressures; these do not stop at Year 11.

The group also discussed the first substantive draft of the ADCS health position paper, the Timpson Review of School Exclusions and links to SEND and received an update on ADCS discussions with the CVAA on the adoption inter-agency fee.

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