June has been a month of meetings, meetings, meetings! Some in those everyday places and coffee houses that exist in all towns, others in the most glorious of settings - the Palace of Westminster. But more of that later...
Spreading the word about The Local Offer, what it is and what is isn't, has been a theme of this month together with gaining support for the goals and aspirations of this social enterprise. It has been rewarding to meet individuals and organisations, all of whom share a common goal in their support of children through to young adults with a range of special educational needs, from autistic spectrum disorder, to complex developmental difficulties, to emotional and social development needs.
My fears for a divergence between SEND providers in the public, private and third sector are set against more solid foundations.
It is with sadness that I note how some local authorities are poorly interpreting and implementing the local offer, that peculiar feature of the reforms, enshrined within Support & Aspiration and the Children and Families Act (2014).
As this website publishes a list, region by region, of all local authority local offers, so a pattern is emerging.
- Some LAs are placing the burden of responsibility onto schools to create & publish their own local offer - this is clearly not in the spirit of the guidance, which places the responsibility onto LAs to make clear all the specialist and targeted services and support available to parents & carers.
- Many LAs have published a 'statement of intent' indicating their intention to publish a local offer by the required deadline of 1st September 2014. Evidence of what has been achieved to date, after this considerable preparation time, is less clear.
- Some LAs have cited their local offer as being akin to a 'trip advisor' like service, where parents can choose, use and rate the services they like and those they do not. I sincerely hope these LAs will come to see the folly of their comments.
- Yet more LAs have housed their local offer in such tucked-away, hard to find places, that their use or practicality must be called to question.
- Very few LAs have even begun to consider, much less include, the true breadth of provision across the public, private and third sector.
I am disappointed that my own LA, Warwickshire, have made no attempt to include within their local offer, HM Stack Consulting, an independent consultancy service that has provided support to schools, children and families in this area for the past decade.
HM Stack Consulting (and formerly, Learning Services (SEN) Ltd) has provided since 2002 -
- Assessment advice to over 1,200 children & young people;
- Over 70 different training events on a range of SEND themes;
- Over 1400 members of staff have received training or inset
My suspicions that most private sector providers will need to fight hard to gain a foothold in the local offer set out by LAs are being confirmed weekly, as more and more organisations have made contact to ask, How do we become a part of the local offer in our Local Authority?
This social enterprise sets out to support all organisations to be proactive in developing their Local Offer in line with the SEND Reforms. It assists in maximising each organisatios exposure to those who commission and contract SEND services, whether that is a formal funded arrangements or an informal, ad hoc support contract, and to bring together the needs of parents, children, schools, commissioners & providers.
Which brings me back to 'meetings, meetings, meetings...'
I have very much appreciated Robert Buckland, MP, giving time to meet at the Palace of Westminster to discuss this enterprise, my fears for how the SEND reforms may be implemented and my concern for how this aspect of the reforms is being played out across the country.
Robert impressed me with his very thorough knowledge of the SEND reforms and in his reading around this social enterprise. He was knowledgeable, courteous, interested and passionate. He expressed his dismay at the approach many local authorities are currently taking as they implement the local offer, and admired the section of the site that details, region by region, each LAs local offer - http://www.thelocaloffer.co.uk/the-local-offer-by-region-north (other regions are available to view on the site).
As an added bonus of the meeting, Robert invited me to join a SEND Committee meeting he was chairing on the subject of childcare for chidlren with disabilities. A very interesting and poignant session, with contributions from two parents and a young student with disabilities on a very complex and challenging matter.
Social Media & The Local Offer
I am pleased to report that progress on the social media front is encouraging, with site views increasing daily, and the facebook page for The Local Offer now established (if not yet thriving!). There is much to learn and embrace.
For those interested, please do take a moment to like the facebook page for The Local Offer - https://www.facebook.com/thelocaloffer
Join the LinkedIn group - https://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=7460369&trk=my_groups-tile-grp
Or follow on Twitter - https://twitter.com/thelocaloffer
Wishing you a very peaceful and happy June!
With kind regards