In February 2017, several anonymous articles appeared in the Secret School column of the Sheffield Telegraph (e.g. “Are children in the city with special educational needs being let down?“). These criticised the Council’s SEN Team for delays in issuing Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, and for writing plans that are too vague about the provision required. They also raised concerns about long waits to access children’s mental health services and assessments at the Ryegate Children’s Centre. The Telegraph also published a response from Sheffield City Council and the CCG.
The articles were widely debated on social media, and galvanised a group of parents into setting up a Facebook group with plans to hold a rally at the Town Hall. However, the protest was called off as the organisers were worried that this could have a negative impact on their already strained relationships with the SEN Team.
The issues raised in the Telegraph are consistent with the feedback we have been receiving from our members. We have shared this feedback with the council to improve the experiences of families going through the EHC process. For example, we raised concerns about the quality of EHC plans, and this led to the Council setting up a Quality Assurance group. This group, which has representation from parents and schools, carries out spot checks of recent EHC plans and gives feedback to the plan writers.
We have also worked with Sheffield Healthwatch to highlight the excessive waiting times for therapies such as Occupational Therapy or Clinical Psychology at the Ryegate Centre.
It is clear that more needs to be done. We need to find solutions that work, and the best way to do this is by working together. To facilitate this, we arranged a meeting between the Facebook group and senior representatives from Sheffield City Council (including Jayne Ludlam, Executive Director for Children, Young People and Families) and NHS Sheffield. Download meeting notes