SEND Improvement Programme: December Update

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News Update - December 2020

In the update

Sian joins the improvement programme

Sian Rees

Sian Rees was recently appointed as the Strategic Lead for the Cumbria SEND Improvement Programme. We asked her to tells us about her impressions of the programme and her priorities.

"After more than ten years away I’m very pleased to be working back in Cumbria in the role of strategic lead for SEND. Over the last six weeks I have been considering the work that has already taken place to improve SEND services and suggesting ways of building on this, both in response to the inspection findings and for the longer term.  What is clear is that all those leading and contributing to the improvement work are determined to make the changes that are needed and know there is more to do, including to embed new processes and ways of working so that these make a difference to children and families.

"I have worked on improvement programmes for more than twenty years, including most recently in Lancashire on the SEND programme where some of the areas for concern were similar to those in Cumbria and many other places around the country. I’ve learned that to make fundamental and long lasting change takes time and sometimes it may feel as though we’re not getting anywhere, but I also know that if we work together we can, and we will, make progress. To be successful we need the right foundations in place; trusting and respectful relationships, robust processes and effective systems, so that we can deliver a high quality offer of which we are all proud.

"I look forward to working with parent carers and professionals in 2021 to continue the improvement of SEND services across the county and take this very welcome opportunity to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a healthy New Year."


Free Health and Wellbeing virtual event will provide advice and support for parents & carers

wellbeing image

A virtual health and wellbeing day is to be held in January, to support parents and carers of children with autism or learning disabilities to take some time for themselves. 

The event, to be held via Zoom on 27th January, will provide workshops on mindfulness, sleep, mindful movement and a talk/Q&A on Autism by Triple A, a Cumbrian charity that supports autistic adults.

The event will begin at 10am with a pre-recorded video by DaCE Cumbria, a charity providing support for people with disabilities, giving information on personal health budgets (PHBs) for children, followed by an FAQ session, again with DaCE who will be joined by a parent who's child currently has a PHB in place. 

A PHB is an amount of money to support a child's health and wellbeing needs, which is planned and agreed between the family and the local NHS team. It is not new money, but may enable money to be spent differently so that children can get the care they need. A PHB allows families to manage healthcare and support such as treatments, equipment and personal care in a way that suits them.

Attendees will then be able to access the workshops, before finishing the day with a live Q&A with the event contributors via the chat facility on Zoom at around 1pm.

The event is free to attend for all parents and carers of children with autism or a learning disability, and you can register via Eventbrite here.

Your questions answered - with John Readman

John Readman

Executive Director - People

Earlier this year John Readman, Executive Director - People at Cumbria County Council with overall responsibility for SEND services, met with some parent representatives who volunteer in the SEND improvement programme, and amongst other things they had the opportunity to ask questions about the SEND system in general. 

There wasn't time to answer all the questions on the day so John took the unanswered ones away. The responses provided are shared below;


With regard to preparation for adulthood, what assurances can you give that all future transition plans will be followed through to completion?

We know that preparation for adulthood systems haven’t been as joined up or as effective as they should be in helping our young people during this vital time in their lives, and we are committed to improving and strengthening the process.

Over the last two years we have been improving joint working, and there are now regular multi-agency meetings between transition workers, team managers and a range of teams including SEND, children's care services, post 16 education, mental health, and the child looked after team. The purpose of the meetings is to share information and make sure barriers to enable access to relevant services are identified and addressed.

In addition, the Preparation for Adulthood Route Planner is being co-produced with parents and carers, young people, the SEND team and service leads from across the SEND system. The route planner will ensure everyone understands what should happen during the preparation for adulthood process, from year 9 in school into early adulthood. Transition Champions will be appointed across the system to train staff and families together, so that everyone is clear who will do what and by when. The Route Planner will help to ensure that all preparation for adulthood plans are made in a timely way, and that they are followed through to completion for each young person and their family.

What plans are in place for future adult social care services for our young people? 

Adult Social Care services is embedding strengths-based practice across the whole service. This encourages everyone to focus on what our young people can do, and the strengths and ambitions they have, rather than on what they can’t do, whilst recognising the specific needs of each young person.

Before the pandemic a review was due to take place to bring together Communities teams, commissioners, adult social care and health partners and although delayed, this work will start soon. The first group will be young people with a learning disability and/or autism.

The re-shaping of the Learning disability service was also delayed but will begin in January. Transition to adulthood will be central to our conversations, engagement and service planning.

Across the county there is a range of support and accommodation options, including a variety of day opportunities, support to improve or maintain independence at home, supported living and residential care. Based on assessed need, social workers will identify what might suit an individual. They work with the commissioning team to put in place support when there is no existing suitable support or accommodation. This could include developing new support options using existing services and providers, including Homecare, Day Opportunities, Supported Living, Mental Health Rehabilitation and Recovery and Additional Needs

Individuals or their families can also choose to manage their own support using a direct payment. The direct payment is based on assessed need and can be used to provide support to help meet the young person’s needs. There is also the option of using an Individual Fund with a Provider.

What education opportunities will be available as it seems to be limiting some young people's aspirations?

Part of our monitoring process within the Learning Improvement service is to look at outcomes and progression routes for all young people including the provision and outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

As part of the Preparation for Adulthood Route Planner, we are focusing on careers information, advice and guidance (CIAG) for young people with SEND, and working with further education colleges and local employers to support and promote routes into further education and employment.

Outside of school we signpost to opportunities through the Local Offer website, although we know these are limited and need to be developed.

Call for questions

Call for questions

Parents have asked for the Q&A section to become a regular feature, so future newsletters will provide the opportunity to put your questions to senior leaders in the SEND system. 

Sian Rees, Strategic Lead for the SEND improvement programme has volunteered to answer questions for the next newsletter.

You can send your questions on the SEND Improvement Programme to Sian via Hayley Stewart here, and do let us know which areas of the SEND system you would like to know more about for future newsletters.

'Don't miss out on your free annual health check' urges NHS

LD annual health check

People with leaning disabilities aged 14+ are eligible for a free annual health check

A drive is on to encourage young people with a learning disability aged 14+ to make sure they are on their GP's learning disability register. 

Once on the register, the GP practice will invite the young person for a free health check, which is like a yearly MOT!

Sadly, on average, people with learning disabilities die at an earlier age than the rest of the population and that should not be the case. This can be due to medical conditions that are undiagnosed.

Many people with SEND have problems when they go to hospital due to a lack of information shared between the GP and other health services. In addition, people with learning disabilities often miss out on health screening and immunisations that will keep them well.

Health services throughout Cumbria are determined that this must change and the annual health check is one way to ensure people have the opportunity to see a Doctor and help to make sure health issues are diagnosed and addressed.

In order to make sure your young person on the GP's learning disability register, an easy to use Postcard for young people or their carers to fill in and hand to their GP surgery has been produced, and is available here.

Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group have produced a guide to annual health checks, which gives full details. The information it provides is applicable across the whole of Cumbria. 

Further details and support  regarding annual health checks are available on the Mencap website here.

Do you have a child aged 0 to 5? How has 2020 been for you and your family?


'Cumbria Together' launches, as views on family life during the pandemic are sought

The Early Years team would like to hear about life and experiences during 2020 for families with young children aged 0 – 5 years across Cumbria, to discover what matters most to them.

The project is looking to gather feedback from as many families as possible, and is especially interested in hearing views from families of children with additional needs. 

'Cumbria Together - Time to have your say', a survey which takes about 5 minutes to complete, is available via Survey Monkey here.


Cumbria's SEND local offer Facebook page goes live

Local offer signpost

Find services and access support through the new Local Offer page

Cumbria's Local Offer now has a Facebook page  where families can access services and support, and find out what's going on in Cumbria for children and young people with SEND.

The new page went live last week and already has quite a following. Give the page a 'Like' to stay up to date with news and information for all things SEND related. Search for 'Cumbria SEND Local Offer' in your Facebook app, or use the link to the page here.

Cumbria’s SEND Local Offer is the central information point for families with children aged 0 to 25 years with special educational needs and/or disabilities, and you can access the full site here.

Key figures in the improvement programme give update

WG chairs video

Leaders within the SEND improvement programme have shared details of their work in a series of videos

The videos are all just a few minutes long, and give an overview of the focus of the working groups and their aims. 

The videos were originally created to share with front line professionals delivering SEND services, but are now being shared more widely via YouTube to all who would like to know more.

You can view some of these videos by clicking the links below, with more to follow in future newsletters

Linda Clegg - Independent chair of the SEND improvement board

Sian Rees - Strategic Lead - SEND improvement programme

Fiona Musgrave - Understanding of local need - Working group 1

Sharon Simpson - Commissioning and access to provision - Working group 2

Amanda Boardman - Emotional health and wellbeing - Working group 5

Sally Senejko - SEN Support - Working group 6

See Ability - Introducing the Special School Eye Care Service


A new fully funded NHS service for all Special Schools launches

NHS England has developed an in school eyecare service for all children in special schools across England.

The service will enable every child to get the most from their vision, including a sight test and the dispensing and fitting of glasses – all completed on the school premises.

Children with special needs often have difficulty ‘seeing the world’ in the same way as other children. This service will help to identify these issues, and support teachers, parents and children to use their vision in the best way to help them with communication skills, mobility and independence.

See ability 2

NHS England have created a film to introduce this exciting new service to families. The film explains how the service will help address health inequalities for children with learning disabilities and autism, and shows how the new programme works in practice by going through the process at The Village School in London.

You can watch the film here

Mary Mulligan retires

Long serving manager in the Inclusion service retires

Mary Mulligan, Senior Manager for the Inclusion service, retired at the end of November after 9 years service in Cumbria.

Dan Barton, Assistant Director - education and skills, said

"Mary has made a huge contribution to improving the lives of children throughout her career and her time with the council. Due to the ongoing SEND improvement work it is critically important that there is continuity of leadership within the service. To that end Sally Senejko (SEND) and Di Routledge (Children with Disabilities Social Care) will be acting up to carry out the Senior Manager responsibilities for their respective service areas. The Access and Inclusion team will continue to work within Education and Skills, with management and support from Andy Smart and the School Infrastructure team."

Many of Mary's colleagues took the time to wish her all the very best in whatever she chooses to do next and sent her their very best wishes for the future.

And finally...

virtual meeting

a message from the whole SEND Improvement Programme team. 

Although this winter is likely to bring further challenges to resources as the Covid vaccines are rolled out, we remain committed to delivering the improvements which we know are vital to ensure Cumbria does it's very best for children and young people with SEND and their families.

We recognise that the pandemic creates additional anxieties and vulnerabilities for some of our SEND families, and want to assure you that we will work together to continue to support you through this difficult time. You can find information and support here.

We wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, and all the very best for the New Year.