CQC and Ofsted praise SEND provision in Dorset

Three-week inspection finds local authority and NHS services ‘typically lead to positive experiences and outcomes for children and young people’

‘Children and young people with SEND and their families are placed at the heart of all that leaders do,’ begins the glowing endorsement by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and regulator Ofsted of the Dorset local area partnership. Dorset Council is the first unitary authority to achieve such a result from a local SEND inspection under the new framework.

Man helping a student with SEND in a school setting

Photo courtesy of Dorset Council

The three-week inspection of services took place in March this year, involving staff from Dorset Council as local authority, NHS Dorset as local health care provider. Practitioners in local education settings and many young people and families were also consulted.

More than 1,000 partners, parents, carers and young people also contributed to the inspection by completing a survey. The result is very positive.

For one thing, the ‘culture of working together results in continual improvement to secure the best possible outcomes for children, young people and their families’. In addition, ‘the voice of children and young people with SEND is highly valued’, while, ‘many parents and carers feel they are true partners when planning their own provision and improvements generally. Parents, carers, children and young people typically speak positively about how they are supported to have better experiences.’

Among the aspects of local provision found to be particularly effective are the ambitions of local leaders to ensure needs are identified accurately and then met consistently. The report highlights the support provided to practitioners in early years provision and in the success of transitioning children into school. There is also support for children and their families are they wait for assessments. Health and well-being support is also praised. Education, health and care plans (EHCPs) are of high quality.

There is, though, some room for improvement, such as in strengthening the use of good

qualitative and quantitative information to evaluate the impact of what is often innovative work. Quality assurance and annual review processes could also be more precise and robust. 

Cllr Clare Sutton, who this week becomes Portfolio Holder for Children, Education, Skills and Early Help at Dorset Council, says: ‘I am pleased to see the results of the joint area inspection which took place earlier this year and I thank everyone across Dorset Council, our health and education colleagues, Dorset Parent Carer Council and other partners who have worked so hard to get this positive result. I know there is still more to do for Dorset families and I look forward to working closely with Children’s Services and other partners to carry on improving the services we deliver for families.’

Theresa Leavy, Executive Director for Children’s Services, adds: ‘We know our children and their families really well and we worked hard to make sure they all had a chance to have their views heard as part of the inspection, whether that was through the survey we sent out or whether it was through talking directly to the inspectors. It was particularly great to hear the voices of our young people recognised, as we work so hard to make sure they are at the centre of our work all the time.’

Lesley Mellor, Chair of the Dorset Parent Carer Council, says: ‘The three weeks of inspection highlighted how Dorset Parent Carer Council as a group, are fundamental to the changes and improvements that are happening in Children’s Services and Health. The recognition by all the inspectors of our involvement and strong partnership working and the acknowledgement we are all strengthening services for the future is welcome.’

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