THE council must give all special educational needs and disabled (SEND) children a “chance to shine”, a young person’s charity has urged.

This comes after an Ofsted report found Wokingham Borough Council (WBC)’ strategy to improve outcomes for children with SEND had “stalled”.

Martin Thacker, Deputy Director at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“Wokingham Borough Council has a legal duty to support children with special educational needs and disabilities, but this inspection shows that the system in place just isn’t up to scratch.

“Clear areas for improvement have been identified and all eyes are now on the council’s leaders to see how they will start delivering for every child in their care.

“With the right support, children with special needs and disabilities can fulfil their incredible potential and achieve well at school. The council must now give them all that chance to shine.”

Watchdog Ofsted inspected the council’s and Berkshire West CCG’s SEND support services between four days in March 2019.

A recently published report claimed leadership of SEND support in the local authority was “weak” due to “frequent changes of senior leaders over the last two and a half years”.

“High staff turnover” also led to “instability” in the social care workforce, meaning parents frequently reported several changes of social workers within “relatively short time frames” which led to ‘slow progress’ in achieving positive outcomes for SEND children.

In February, the News reported councillors had raised concerns about the time taken to revisit children within protection plans.

A report showed two in five meetings did not take place within ten days after the previous assessment because the council was struggling with recruiting and retaining staff.

Figures revealed the turnover of qualified social workers employed in children’s services had risen to 30 per cent by December 2018.

The changes in senior leadership meant there was an “underlying sense of mistrust” between professionals and parents.

Some parents claimed to be “exhausted” from having to re-tell professionals across different services the same information, with a number having to “continually chase” professionals for follow-up referrals.

Ofsted concluded it had “significant concerns” about the effectiveness of SEND provision in Wokingham and now the council and the CCG will be forced to write a ‘statement of action’ to outline how they will address six key failings.

A statement from WBC and Berkshire West CCG read: “The Wokingham Children and Young People Partnership Board is committed to making positive progress in its work, and a great deal is already being done to address issues raised in the inspection report.

“The Board’s action plan and strategy are being reviewed to incorporate feedback from service users and their families.

“The inspection recognised there was good commitment and improving leadership in developing a fit for purpose service for vulnerable children and their families and that this needs to continue.

“There were areas of our work the inspectors highlighted as working well - the use of health data and feedback from service users to improve outcomes for children and young people. We’re now building on this working with partners from education and social care to establish more coordinated service planning and improvements.

“Work is also being done to improve arrangements for children moving from child to adult health services and the Partnership Board is looking at implementing a more efficient and robust way of health, education and social care agencies working together.

“The report is disappointing but provides an opportunity for all agencies to work together to improve services. We are all highly committed to providing the best we can for children and families living in Wokingham.”