The vast majority of local authorities are failing to provide sufficient detail on available provision for children and young people with special needs or a disability (SEND), an audit of all Local Offers in England has found.
The audit, by the Children’s Services Development Group (CSDG), an alliance of independent providers of care and specialist education services for children and young people with complex needs, found inconsistent provision across the country, with some local authorities not meeting legal obligations on providing information.
Local Offers aim to provide up-to-date, useful advice to parents and carers on provision for children young people and children with SEND. But almost half of authorities do not list the full range of provision available on their website.
This is important because being able to access clear, comprehensive, user-friendly and up-to-date materials on the services available is essential for parents to make an informed choice about how to meet the specific needs of their child. Given the changing landscape of service provision for SEND across the country, the process of securing support should be made as easy as possible no matter where someone lives.
Key findings from the CSDG’s report, The Local Offer, Children and Parental Rights, included:
• 44.7% of local authorities do not list independent schools on their Local Offer webpage
• 9.2% did not provide any information on independent schools at all
• Of those that include information on independent schools, 56.6% of authorities do not provide information on the specialisms of these schools
• Despite a legal obligation to do so, 43.4% do not list schools outside their boundaries as an integrated part of their Local Offer.
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP, said: “This welcome research has uncovered a very mixed picture for the local offer across the country. This is a cause for concern if the ultimate aim is to support children, wherever they live. The report makes a number of achievable recommendations that I hope the government will carefully consider as a way to improve local offers and outcomes for young people across the country.”
CSDG spokesperson, Brian Jones – chief executive of the SENAD Group – said: “Local Offer implementation across local authorities is inconsistent, resulting in the emergence of a postcode lottery. The Department for Education’s Section 41 list of independent schools, which many Local Offer pages simply redirect to, is not fit for purpose. A mandated local offer template produced by the Department is the best way to achieve consistency and ensure it is easy to use, providing clear, accessible information about local provision.”