Bedford’s provision for children with special educational needs criticised in new report

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News.

Government bosses have ruled that Bedford’s provision for children with special educational needs (SEN) or disabilities is not good enough.

In a joint letter from the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted, the watchdogs who oversee healthcare and education, Bedford Borough Council and Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have been told that “significant areas of weakness” have been found.

It states the partnership between the council and the CCG is a significant problem, and the two bodies have been told to prepare a Written Statement of Action, which is what inspectors require local areas with the most serious failings to submit.

The letter says: “In recent years, deep-seated weaknesses in the local area’s wider provision have meant that leaders have not prioritised improving the quality of services for children and young people who have SEN and/or disabilities.

“The ongoing weakness in the partnership between the local authority and the CCG continue to hinder their ability to act on weaknesses robustly.

“Consequently, the reforms are failing to meet their duties under the Children and Families Act of 2014.”

The letter follows a week-long joint inspection by Ofsted and the CQC from February 5-9.

Parents and carers, children and young people, and both local authority and NHS officers were all spoken to during the inspection, which also saw the team visit various service providers.

Bedfordshire CCG, which oversees healthcare across the borough, is singled out on several counts.

The letter points to its financial position after being put into special measures in January, “frequent changes in the senior leadership”, and the “failure to appoint a designated clinical officer until recently”.

However, there are some positives in the letter.

Members of the Parent Carer Forum are described as “skilled, knowledgeable and well respected,” while Bedford Borough Council’s director of children’s services is praised for his work.

The letter adds: “There were no safeguarding concerns identified during the inspection.”

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group was unavailable for comment.

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