Proposed decision –
Commence formal procurement activity to tender for additional Educational Psychologist capacity, award a contract and develop robust contract management for oversight of the contract performance.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) services in Kent remain subject to a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) following the inspection of the Local Area in January 2019 which identified weaknesses in nine key areas. One of those areas was the ability of the Local Authority to deliver Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in a timely manner and to an agreed quality, meeting statutory duties to provide educational psychology assessment advice for all children for whom the Local Authority was carrying out an Education, Health and Care needs assessment.
In July 2020, the figures indicated that only 29% of EHCPs were delivered in line with statutory timescales, a key determinant being the provision of educational psychology advice within a six week timescale.
In 2020, an external provider was commissioned to provide additional capacity for the educational psychology (EP) advice necessary for education, health and care (EHC) needs assessment under the duties set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. This has reduced the number of initial assessments waiting over 20 weeks and brought Kent County Council closer to meeting its statutory duty. The volume of requests for EHC needs assessment remains high and capacity to provide EP assessment advice remains dependent on the additional capacity of locum agency EP provision.
The contract with the current provider ends on 30 November 2022, the proposal is to recommission a service with no break in provision with a new service in place from 1 December 2022.
The Council is seeking the provision of high-quality locum support to complete statutory assessments in accordance with the template provided by the local authority and within designated time scales. Ongoing support to the service will be provided, through the award of a contract to a third-party provider, to significantly reduce the likelihood of a future backlog.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 27/04/2022
Decision due: Not before 26th May 2022 by Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services
Lead director: Mark Walker
Department: Education & Young People's Services
Contact: Christy Holden, Head of Strategic Commissioning, Children and Young People’s Services Tel: 03000 415356.
Financial implications: The financial spend is dependent on demand and foresee the spend range to be between £720k and £1.8m per annum. The contract will be for one year with an option to extend for a further year.
Legal implications: The local authority has a statutory obligation to complete assessments (EHCPs) in a 20-week timeframe. As an authority we are, in a number of cases, failing in this duty impacted by the capacity of the EP Service. Establishing a contract seeks to address this. - In 2019 Ofsted and the CQC undertook a joint inspection of Kent’s SEND offer and how this is implemented across the county. The inspection identified the following - The Fragmented system means that too many children and young people with SEND do not get the support they need - Families experience a high level of confusion about what support is available. Resulting in the belief that an EHCP is essential to ensure their child’s needs are met. - Kent does not yet successfully prioritise the needs of children and young people with SEND. - Children and young people with SEND experience unacceptable inequality when accessing services in Kent.
Equalities implications: An EqIA has been completed and identified no high negative impacts and the following positive impacts were identified: - An increase in the total number of assessments available to meet the needs of young people who are in need of an Educational Psychology assessment who may/may not be SEN; A reduced wait to access support which may be dependent on the completion of an assessment; Young people and their families will be supported to achieve and will have their wellbeing positively impacted as a result of receiving an assessment service in a more timely manner. Whilst by its nature the service will exclude those who do not fulfil these criteria, the choice of these restrictions is justified, and any other protected groups are not affected.