Extra funding needed to help Suffolk SEND service improve

Suffolk County Councillor Sandy Martin said he was "very concerned" about the Universal Credit statistics 

Suffolk County councillor Sandy Martin called for extra financial help to recruit permanent staff for the service - Credit: Archant

Parents should start to see improvements to communication in the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) service early next year, according to education chiefs.

Councillors have also called for stronger accountability and extra funding for recruitment to further improve the service.

At Suffolk County Council’s education scrutiny committee on Thursday, SEND service leaders faced questions over the action plan to address failings in the service identified by the Lincolnshire review report published in September.

When asked when the service would be in a better position to respond to calls and emails in a more timely manner, Ros Somerville, assistant director for inclusion, said there were hopes for the new year as recruitment for new posts that will increase capacity in the team remains a challenge.

“We would like to be able to say that is possible now,” she said.

“This isn’t staff who can’t be bothered to respond to emails, it is about capacity. We are doing everything we can to recruit, we are also looking at how we can use the resource we do currently have and do it differently, so we can streamline and look at efficiency in the system.

“I would hope somewhere early into the new year we will have a new system that will support with that communication and as we move into the summer and we can recruit with additional resources we would hope to see a big improvement.”

rachel hood

Conservative cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council, Rachel Hood. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Simon Lee Photography Suffolk UK

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The council’s cabinet is to be asked to allocate more cash in the budget for the new financial year going forward to fund permanent roles in the team.

Councillor Sandy Martin said “We inform the county leadership team – the leader of the council and the cabinet as a whole – that further financial resources will be required in order to enable permanent posts to be offered to fill the vacancies that currently exist.

“One of the things that came very clearly out of this is that offering people short term posts in order to try and cover over as a sticking plaster is not going to hack it – we need some permanent posts and we need some money in order to be able to recruit people to those permanent posts.”

Other measures the committee called for were regular reports on progress, investigating whether a tie-up can be explored with the University of Suffolk to train people for future roles, clarified information for people on how to access services and collating information on training for school staff.

Rachel Hood, Conservative cabinet member for education, said: “We have a long way to go – there are some changes that have already been implemented swiftly and the impact is being felt now, but there are others that are taking time.

“Quite clearly we recognise there is more to be done but I hope today gives an insight into how much is being done.”