UP to 100 parents and families of children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) are expected to protest about their concerns the county is letting them down.
‘Our Children Deserve Better…’ is the rallying call for next Wednesday’s protest at County Hall at 11am (on February 8).
They have formed the campaign group Devon SEND Parents and Carers for Change after Devon County Council was rated inadequate in this area in 2018 and 2022.
A spokesperson from DSPCC says: ‘A collective of nearly 400 parents and carers have just set up a campaign to lobby Devon County Council to better meet the SEND needs of our children.
‘As your readers may be aware, DCC has failed its Area Ofsted inspection twice consecutively (the only one in the country to do so) having a ruinous effect on thousands of children across Devon.’
A poster put out by the group says: ‘Enough is enough, our children deserve better.
‘Our voices and those of our children and young people with SEND have been ignored for too long.
‘Now is the time to make Devon County Council listen.
‘Join the protest on February 8 at County Hall.’
The Ofsted inspection of 2022 said: ‘The current SEND strategy is not based on a shared, honest and transparent self-evaluation process across the whole area. This means that leaders do not fully understand the weaknesses so that they can tackle them.
‘Communication remains poor. In fact, in many cases communication has got worse. Telephone calls are unanswered. Complaints and documents are lost. There is a failure to keep families informed.’
‘Completed EHC plans are variable in quality, and in many cases poor. Plans do not capture the child or young person’s needs and aspirations sufficiently.’
‘The area has not made sufficient progress in addressing any of the significant weaknesses identified at the initial inspection.’
Any parents and carers of SEND children living in Devon who wish to join the campaign, can do so by pressing this link:
Government ‘extremely concerned’
IN December the Mid-Devon Advertiser reported The government is ‘extremely concerned’ about Devon County Council’s failing children’s services.
The comment by the Department for Education came after Devon’s MPs were told the county’s children’s services are now considered to be the ‘third or fourth worst in the country.’
Unless there are signs of improvement, they are likely to be taken into special measures this year. This would involve Devon being stripped of its responsibilities and having children’s services placed into an independently run trust.
The council’s children’s services department was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in January 2020, while Devon was also recently hit with a government improvement notice for its services for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) which it runs in partnership with NHS Devon.
The Conservative-run council and NHS Devon both apologised after a revisit by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission last May found that progress had not been made in fixing four areas of ‘significant concern’ identified in December 2018.
To help try to turn the service around, the council has adopted an improvement plan while changes have been made to the department’s leadership. Melissa Caslake recently left as director of children’s services, with Somerset’s former children’s lead Julian Wooster put in interim charge.
A spokesperson for Devon County Council said: ‘We are working closely with government on our improvement plans for children’s social care and SEND services and recognise that there is more to do.
‘Improving our support for children in Devon is our main priority.
‘We have a new structure and processes in place and believe that in collaboration with the DfE and other partners, and families of children and young people in Devon with SEND, we are on the right path.’