Help us improve SEND services in Cumbria

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dan barton

"Welcome to the first edition of the Cumbria SEND Improvement Programme e-newsletter. We are committed to improving services for children and young adults with SEND and we know that to do that we need to work hand-in-hand with parents and carers. We've made some progress but there's still a lot more to do and we recognise that many parents/carers are frustrated and sceptical about our commitment and ability to move services forward.

"I can only stress our collective determination to see things improve, for too many children and young adults we aren't getting it right and that needs to change.

"It will not be easy, there is no additional money available, whatever we do has to be done within our current budgets. But i'm sure there are things we can do differently, and do better. This programme of work is at it's earliest stages and the importance of involving parents/carers and their children cannot be overstated. We've had to act fast since our inspection to meet some set deadlines and I acknowledge we haven't yet been able to involve parents/carers in the way we, and they, want - but I'm clear that will rapidly change. This is about a real culture change in how services are shaped and delivered.

"This is the first of what will be regular e-newsletters keeping you up to date with what is happening and making sure you know how you can get involved. Please make sure you sign up and hopefully I may meet some of you as we move forward on this improvement journey."

Dan Barton, Assistant Director - Education and Skills at Cumbria County Council and lead officer for the Cumbria SEND Improvement Programme

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Keep up to date with the Cumbria SEND Improvement Programme

To keep up to date with the latest, get involved and access more detailed information sign up to receive future editions of this e-newsletter.

We have also created pages on the Local Offer website to hold all the information about the programme so that it is accessible to all.

We anticipate publishing an update e-newsletter about once every six weeks, with additional updates and alerts when relevant.

Send any questions to

What is the Cumbria SEND Improvement Programme?

Agencies in Cumbria have been working together to improve the quality and accessibility of services for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) and earlier this year Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an inspection of these services. The inspection identified a range of areas where improvements were needed.

You can read their full report here which was published on 22 May.

Many of the findings and recommendations had already been identified by our teams and we know there is much to do to make improvements for young people in Cumbria.

As the lead agencies for SEND services, Cumbria County Council (CCC), NHS Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group (MBCCG) and NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCCG) are required by the Department for Education to deliver a programme of improvement work to address the recommendations included in the inspection report.

Written Statement of Action

How is the SEND Improvement Programme being managed?

Written Statement of Action SEND

The first requirement by Ofsted/CQC was for the three lead agencies to produce a document called a Written Statement of Action (WSoA). The WSoA is a plan which sets out how we will respond to the specific recommendations made in the inspection report. The WSoA had to be submitted to the Department for Education by 21 August for their approval.

A draft version of the WSoA was circulated to parents/carers for comment via the Cumbria Parent Carer Forum and that feedback informed the version that was submitted. We recognise that there was limited time to provide feedback because of the August deadline and would have preferred more time to engage with parents/carers and children/young adults.

The WSoA does not limit us and is not everything that needs to be done to improve services. It is what we must deliver, but it can be added to as the project progresses. But while we await final approval of the WSoA by Ofsted/CQC we will continue to progress the actions that have been identified so far.

The SEND Improvement Programme is being led by an Improvement Board. The Board includes senior officers and Councillors from CCC and the NHS as well as parent/carer representatives from the Cumbria Parent Carer Forum. The Board is Chaired by Linda Clegg. Linda is independent of both CCC and the NHS and has extensive experience of working on similar projects across the country. The Board oversees the whole project, ensures progress is being made and takes key decisions.

The work to develop and deliver the improvement activity is managed by six Working Groups. These are:

  1. Understanding of local need
  2. Commissioning and access to provision
  3. Engagement and co-production
  4. Preparation for adulthood
  5. Emotional health and well-being
  6. SEN support

All working groups include representatives from relevant agencies, including CCC and the NHS. There will also be parent/carer representatives on these groups (more about this below). Most Working Groups have had one or two meetings so far and a calendar of future meetings is being developed. All the actions that the Working Groups have so far agreed can be found in the Written Statement of Action.

Details of these meetings can be found on the Local Offer pages we have created for this programme.

How we are involving parents, carers, children and young adults

We are committed to working with parents, carers, children and young adults to improve services. Learning from your experiences is fundamental to ensure the right decisions are made about how services should change. The Engagement and Co-Production Working Group is developing how this will happen. We want to provide a range of ways to get involved, recognising that the time people have to commit to this will vary.

So far parents/carers are represented on the SEND Improvement Board through the Cumbria Parent Carer Forum (CPCF). Parents/carers will also be represented on the six working groups. Over 40 people put their names forward to be considered to attend Working Groups after a request via the CPCF.

An initial meeting with these parent/carers took place on 16 August which considered how best to organise parent/carer representation on the groups. Parents/carers who attended the meeting agreed a process to select four representatives per working group to share the task of representing parent/carers and these names will be confirmed soon. The process will ensure a mix of parents/carers from different parts of the county and with children with a wide range of needs.

Working Groups are only one way that parents/carers will be involved. We will be developing a full programme of engagement and co-production on specific topics, in discussion with parents/carers, which will take place over the coming months. Make sure you sign up for these email alerts to keep up to date.

We will also have a strong focus on working directly with children and young adults to ensure their views inform and guide our work.

One of the first things we will be doing is to conduct a large scale survey of all parents/carers of children and young people with an EHCP, and a similar survey for SEN Support. This will provide important information about your experiences. Hearing from as many parents/carers as possible is important and we hope you will take time to respond. Sign up to email alerts to keep up to date.

The role of the Cumbria Parent Carer Forum

Cumbria Parenent Carer Forum CPCF

The way parents/carers work with professionals is by forming groups called parent carer forums. A parent carer forum is a group of parents and carers of disabled children. Their aim is to make sure the services in their area meet the needs of disabled children and their families. 

They do this by gathering the views of local families and then working in partnership with local authorities, education settings, health providers and other providers to highlight where local services, processes and commissioners are working well, or challenge when changes or improvements need to be made.

Forums usually have a steering group of parents who lead this work and listen to the views of other parents in the local area to make sure they know what is important to them. Forums are keen to hear from as many parent carers as possible.

The Cumbria Parent Carer Forum currently plays this role in Cumbria.

There is recognition that the role of the Parent Carer Forum is something that needs to be reviewed as part of the SEND Improvement Programme and this is included in the Written Statement of Action. No decisions have been made, other than the need for a review, and we will work closely with parents/carers to ensure the forum can work for everyone.

Who's who?

SEND Improvement Board - Chair and Senior Responsible Officers

linda clegg

Linda Clegg, Independent Chair, Cumbria SEND Improvement Board

Linda, a qualified social worker, has over 30 years experience of working with children,young people and their families. Until July 2018, Linda was the Director of Children’s Services (DCS) at Blackburn with Darwen Council, where she was responsible for social care, education SEND and young people’s services. During her seven years as DCS all her services had at least a GOOD Ofsted judgement.

Linda now holds the Regional Improvement Adviser role for the Local Government Association for the North West. Linda is passionate about improving outcomes and in ensuring the voice of the most vulnerable is heard.

shirley murphy

Shirley Murphy, Chair of the Cumbria Parent Carer Forum

Shirley has been Chair of the CPCF for 6 years, but has over 40 years experience of voluntary working within the field of disabilities. She describes herself as fully committed to her role.

Dan Barton, Assistant Director Education and Skills, Cumbria County Council

Dan joined Cumbria County Council in 2017 having previously in senior roles across schools in London, including headteacher for the Virtual School in Southwark. At CCC Dan leads our work with schools, including SEND, along with our Community Learning offer.

dan barton
peter rooney

Peter Rooney, Chief Operating Officer, NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group

Peter is the Chief Operating Officer for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

He has led the organisation through a period of change and is responsible for commissioning acute, community, mental health services and general practice for the north of the county. He has previously worked in addiction services.

hilary fordham

Hilary Fordham, Chief Operating Officer, NHS Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group

Hilary has previously worked as Head of Commissioning for unscheduled care and children’s services at North Lancashire CCG. During this time she was responsible for overseeing the development of a range of joint working initiatives with the local authority, acute trusts and a range of other partners to improve services for patients who require urgent care or care in a community setting and for children, young people and their families. 

Working Group Chairs and parent/carer representatives

Working Group Chair Parent/Carer representatives

Understanding of local need

Fiona Musgrave, Assistant Director Partnerships and Integration, CCC To be confirmed

Commissioning and access to provision

Peter Rooney, Chief Operating Officer, NHS NCCCG To be confirmed

Engagement and co-production

David Blaclock, Chief Executive, People First To be confirmed

Preparation for adulthood

Dan Barton, Assistant Director Education and Skills, CCC To be confirmed

Emotional health and well-being

Colin Cox, Director Public Health, CCC To be confirmed

SEN support

Mary Mulligan, Senior Manager - Inclusion, CCC To be confirmed