SEND Improvement Programme: May 2021

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In this edition:

Sharon focuses on agencies working together to improve services

Sharon Simpson

Sharon Simpson is Senior Manager for Children's Commissioning at Cumbria County Council. Here she tells us about her involvement in the SEND Improvement Programme and the priorities for her service.

" My day to day role focuses on managing the strategic direction for commissioning of children's services. During the joint Ofsted/CQC inspection in 2019, the spotlight shone on the commissioning of SEND services. It became clear that health services and County Council services need to work much more collaboratively, to make sure that those services improve and deliver the best for our children and young people with SEND. Over the past two years much work has been done to ensure all parts of the SEND system work better together, and we have built strong foundations to ensure that the right services will be available at the right time for those who need them. 

"As part of the SEND Improvement programme, I chair the Working Group which focuses on improving  joint commissioning and access to provision. Together we are currently working to improve some key SEND services, such as Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy and the Short Breaks respite services, and we are co-producing these alongside parents and young people to make sure that we have enough of the right services and that they are in the right places going forwards. 

"The aim is to make SEND services work better together, to ensure that we understand the needs families have, and make sure the services we put in place know how to meet those needs.

"As a commissioning service we want to continue to build relationships with families and with colleagues so that together we can ensure that the children and young people are kept at the heart of what we do."

Sharon Simpson  

Senior Manager - Children's Commissioning

Last chance for SEND families to have their say on services in Cumbria's annual surveys

SEND child

The SEND Improvement Partnership's annual surveys are live now - complete yours today to help shape the future of SEND provision in our county

The SEND Improvement Partnership is inviting all families of children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities to complete its annual surveys about their experiences. The partnership wants to find out what effect the work done so far by the SEND Improvement Programme has had, and what we need to do next to continue to make things better, as we know there is still much to do.

The surveys are completely anonymous and take around 10 minutes to complete. There are separate surveys for those whose children have an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP), those whose children do not have an EHCP and for children and young people themselves.

The surveys will be closing on 24th May so make sure you complete yours by then.

You can find the survey links below to take you to the appropriate survey - please take care to chose the right survey for you.

Choose your survey:

Your CAMHS questions answered

Samantha Mortimer - Senior CAMHS and EDS Transformation and Improvement Manager (LSCFT in south Cumbria), and Scott Millican - Nurse Consultant (CNTW in north Cumbria)


In our April Newsletter we asked if you had any questions for Samantha Mortimer and Scott Millican on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and SEND. Here they answer your questions...

What criteria is currently being used by CAMHS when triaging young people? 

Sam and Scott say:

Referrals are triaged by CAMHS, specialist services, My Time and Tier 2 services on a daily basis for urgency and appropriateness. General factors considered at referral include but are not limited to

  • The severity of the current difficulty, frequency and intensity of symptoms, and details on the impact on daily function.
  • The complexity of the young person’s history.
  • Whether there have been enduring difficulties over a period of time, when did the difficulties start, and what was happening at the time of onset.
  • Whether the mental health/emotional needs of the child can be met by the professionals currently involved or whether a range of primary mental health interventions have been tried and proved unsuccessful.
  • When a parent is struggling with a severe mental illness.

Do CAMHS currently have a policy for how they support young people with autism?

Sam and Scott say: 

No, we do not have a specific separate policy in place for people with autism.

Are CAMHS able to offer CBT to young people with autism which has been adapted to meet their needs?

Sam (south Cumbria) says:

Yes, our clinical psychologists and experienced CBT therapist are able to adapt practice to meet the needs of this cohort based on individual circumstances.

Scott (north Cumbria) says:

Yes, we can adapt Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for autism and other neurodiverse conditions and developmental ages.

Do CAMHS work on an ‘episodes of care’ model, and if so how does this work with neurodiverse young people who may not engage with CAMHS as readily as their neurotypical peers? Our experience is that they are discharged because they ‘don’t engage’ but no adjustments are made in order to specifically support the child or allow them time to adapt and engage.

Sam (south Cumbria) says:

We no longer use this model, which was derived from Care Aims. We respond flexibly to individual needs, taking into account difficulties of engagement for young people with neurodiversity and having flexible approaches. In terms of children and young people being discharged without adjustments being made, at times this may be because individual work within CAMHS is not the most appropriate approach for some young people with autism, and therefore a consultative approach or work with families may be offered.

Scott (north Cumbria) says:

No we don't work on an Episodes of Care model. Treatments are tailored for the individual's formulation which takes account of neurodevelopmental difficulties. From a previous audit 30% of the people in the service have Autism Spectrum Condition.

Do CAMHS have therapists specifically trained in supporting people with learning disabilities?

Sam (south Cumbria) says:

No, although some, for example psychologists, have autism training as part of their core training.

Scott (north Cumbria) says:

We have Learning Disability Nurses employed in the service and many practitioners will have done Learning Disability work as part of their formal training.


Find out more about Child and Adolescent Mental Health services on the SEND Local Offer website

Call for questions

Call for questions for Sally Senejko, Senior Manager - SEND, Cumbria County Council

Sally will be answering your questions about education and SEND for our next newsletter. 

Please email Hayley Stewart with your questions for Sally

New 'preparation for adulthood' route planner shows the way

Preparing for adulthood is an important process for all young people, but can be especially critical for those with SEND, to enable them to fulfill their potential and live happy, healthy lives. 

Following feedback from young people and their families, a 'Preparing for adulthood route planner' has been developed to help. Created in co-production with young people and parent carers, the route planner begins at age 13 and highlights key milestones on the journey to adulthood at aged 19 - 25 and beyond.  

More information about the route planner is available on the Local Offer website and training is being given in schools, to health professionals and others involved in planning young people's transition from children's to adult's services.

Young people and their families are being encouraged to use the route planner at annual and other reviews from school year 9 onwards to challenge services to ensure the young person's needs and aspirations are central throughout the planning process, and that key milestones are met at the right times.

Download the preparing for adulthood route planner

PfA route planner

'Don't call me Mum' campaign encourages a different approach

Mum and child

New campaign begins in response to plea from parents

Cumbrian parents have highlighted that being referred to as 'Mum' or 'Dad' during meetings and on written reports is an issue which often causes some discomfort or distress, and can reinforce a perceived imbalance of power during meetings and engagements between families and SEND practitioners at school, in health appointments and elsewhere.

Now a new campaign is asking all those working with children and engaging with families to check with them how they would like to be addressed. It should not be assumed that parents are happy to be referred to as ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ in meetings or referred to as such in reports. One parent was very clear that there were only two people in her life that had the right to call her ‘Mum’ and they were her children. She highlighted that ‘Mum’ was used in a written report as well, when she would have preferred her name to have been used in the same way as all other people in the report.

A short article written by a parent entitled 'Please don't call me Mum' was published on the British Medical Journal website which sums up the points made by local parents perfectly. The learning points drawn from it are:-

  • Don’t assume that parents want to be addressed as Mum and Dad
  • Asking parents how they would like to be addressed will help empower them to be part of the team
  • Parents can bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their child’s care and management

SEND Alliance Cumbria taking shape

SENDAC transparent logo

SENDAC is the new forum for parents and carers of children with SEND 

The new group of around 15 parents and carers of children with SEND have been meeting since January and working to form a constituted parent carer forum to be the recognised statutory voice of SEND families in Cumbria. 

The steering group have members from all across the county, and have children of different ages and types of need. They are all volunteers, and are passionate about getting the voices of children, young people and their families heard at the highest levels and in the rooms where decisions about SEND are made. 

SENDAC are currently forming working relationships with key leaders from across Cumbria's SEND partnership in health, education and social care, and are hoping to be in a position to start working with parents and families from the start of the next academic year. 

The group are beginning to reach out to established support groups and third sector organisations across Cumbria, and are hoping to work together with many of them to harvest parent carer concerns to ensure problems are dealt with and positive changes are made. 

Once established, and when restrictions allow, SENDAC will be supporting parents from each district to hold regular coffee mornings, online meetings and other events to hear from other parents about their current issues and concerns, and will take these themes to strategic meetings to help shape the future of SEND services right across the county.

The team are currently looking for more people to volunteer as district parent reps, and would also like to hear from any parent or family carers who have experience of being a Treasurer to a charity or community interest group.

Any family carers, established support groups or third sector organisations wanting to know more or get involved can visit, visit the Facebook page or email for more information.

Q&A sessions with SEND leads now a regular fixture

SEND leads for education, health and social care schedule regular sessions with families to build relationships and improve transparency

The second of these regular open sessions for families of children and young people with SEND was held on 6th May. Parents and carers chose from morning or evening sessions and were encouraged to raise issues and seek advice from the SEND leads. Around 30 parents signed up, and EHCPs, access to support, preparation for adulthood, SEND training for practitioners in mainstream schools and sensory differences in neurodiverse children were among the topics discussed.

Attendees were also introduced to SEND Alliance Cumbria, the new parent carer forum, who were also in attendance.

Further sessions will be scheduled soon so keep an eye out for details in future newsletters and on the Local Offer Facebook page.

Additional training for those working with autistic children and young people

Autism education trust

Cumbria County Council signs up to new three year Autism Education Trust training programme

A concern raised by families during the Ofsted/CQC inspection in 2019 was a lack of consistent training for those working with children and young people on the autistic spectrum. Now the local authority has signed up to a new training initiative with the Autism Education Trust to upskill those SEND practitioners.

The three year programme is modular in format, covers early years settings, mainstream and specialist schools and post 16 settings, and provides training and resources to support practitioners working with autistic children and young people.

Find out more about the Autism Education Trusts modular training programmes on their website

The programme is comprehensive in its approach, and is underpinned by the principles set out in the Autism Education Trusts October 2020 joint report with the Institute of Public Care, Reducing Exclusions and the use of specialist services for autistic children and young people.

Update events attract large audiences and provide rich feedback

virtual meeting

Cumbria's SEND Partnership held several SEND improvement programme update online events throughout April

The events were an opportunity to find out about the progress the programme has made so far, its priorities for the coming year, and to discuss ideas and gather feedback on people's experiences of receiving or delivering services for children and young people with SEND and their families.

There were two events for parents and carers, two for practitioners from across education, health and social care, and an event for other stakeholders and interested parties, such as elected Councillors, third sector organisations and commissioned and prospective providers.

Nearly 200 people signed up to the events over the course of the month. Attendees were given an update from senior leaders within the SEND partnership of Cumbria County Council and the two NHS clinical commissioning groups which operate within Cumbria, and also had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss ideas for further improvements.

The parent and carers events were recognised as especially useful by the senior team as it gave them an opportunity to hear directly from families about their experiences of the SEND system, and where they feel the focus for improvements now needs to be going forwards. Dan Barton, assistant director for education and skills at Cumbria County Council said the opportunity to hear directly from parents was invaluable, and promised to host further events for the senior team to hear directly from families in the near future.

Children's Commissioner launches 'Big Ask' survey

Survey aims to gather views from as many children and young people in England as possible

Rachel de Souza, the Children's Commissioner for England wants to hear from children and young people right across the country, and is asking families of those with SEND to support their young people to complete the survey if they need help to do so. The survey is split into age groups, ages 4 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 12 and 13 to 17.

This is a unique opportunity for children and young people to tell the Government directly what they think. You can find out more and access the right survey for your child's age group by going to the Big Ask website.

And finally...

virtual meeting

a message from the whole SEND Partnership to families of children and young people with SEND in Cumbria

As restrictions gradually ease and the vaccination programme continues apace, we know that many of you will have mixed feelings about things gradually returning to a new kind of 'normal' and what that will mean for your children and young people, and your family, in the months ahead.

We continue to acknowledge the additional anxieties and pressures faced by many of our SEND families throughout this pandemic, and to assure you that we will work together to continue to support you through this difficult time. 

We want to assure you that 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.

You can find information and support on the Ways to Welfare page. We wish you and your family well and look forward to some hopefully brighter and warmer days in the coming months.