‘Weak’ service for children with disabilities in Hartlepool, find inspectors

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.
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Inspectors have highlighted “significant areas of weakness” after a review of Hartlepool’s services for people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The area’s Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provision is provided jointly by Hartlepool Borough Council and Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

An inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission raised significant concerns about its effectiveness.

Inspectors found the impact of leaders on the quality of services for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities in Hartlepool varies widely.

As a result, there is too much difference in the experiences and outcomes for different groups of children and young people and their families.

A letter from Her Majesty’s Inspector Nick Whittaker to local leaders said: “As a result of the findings of this inspection... Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (HMCI) has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice.”

Mr Whittaker said there were weaknesses in providing clear and timely information, advice and support to families, and shortcomings in the monitoring of the effectiveness of services for how they improve the young people’s lives.

The effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements were not routinely evaluated, he added.

But a number of areas came in for praise such as children and young people are kept safe and protected from harm; the needs of the youngest children and those with complex health needs are identified and assessed effectively and quickly; and the “deep commitment” of frontline staff.

Children’s centres also provide access to a range of services; and there were many good examples of schools working well to develop provision and meet young people’s needs.

In a joint statement, Hartlepool council and the CCG said: “We are well aware of the issues highlighted in the letter and have been working closely with relevant agencies to prepare an action plan.

“We are confident that there will be rapid improvements in the four areas identified and were pleased inspectors highlighted the many positives, including the deep commitment of frontline staff and evidence that children and young people who have special educational needs/or disabilities are kept safe and protected from harm.”