SEND Improvement Programme: September 2021

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In this edition:

Hayley supports parents and practitioners to work together


Hayley Stewart is the Communications and Engagement Officer for the SEND partnership in Cumbria. Here she tells us how her own experiences as a SEND parent are helping bring families and service leads together.

 "I'm mum to three girls, and like many other SEND parents, have experienced issues accessing services and felt the frustrations of the inevitable downward spiral when my child's needs weren't appropriately met. That led me to volunteer as a parent rep when the SEND improvement programme was set up following the Ofsted/CQC inspection in 2019. 

"I volunteered in the programme for around 18 months, representing the views of SEND families, speaking about my own and other's experiences of the SEND system, and giving our suggestions for how to make the positive changes we all need to see.

"In October 2020 I took up my current role, and have been working to help keep stakeholders informed and engaged over the past year. I collate and edit this SEND newsletter and the half termly SENCO newsletters, to ensure families and SEND practitioners are kept informed and up to date with what is happening in the world of SEND in Cumbria.

"The best and most important part of my job is bringing together parents/carers, children and young people and the people who make decisions about SEND services, so families have influence in decisions made about the services our families use.  An example of this is the SEND Local Offer group. The group is lead by parents and brings together practitioners from across education, health and social care. As a group we are working on improving both the content and accessibility of the Local Offer website, so that families and practitioners can use it as a reliable and up to date local resource. It's a work in progress, as the site is large and contains lots of information, but the group are working through priorities identified by families, and are making the improvements families and practitioners want to see, bit by bit.

"My role is jointly funded by the NHS and Cumbria County Council, and across Cumbria we are raising the profile of co-production. We are showing the benefits of having parents and carers working in equal partnership to design improvements. My ambition is to embed the approach, so that SEND families are always included in these processes and conversations naturally, as part of everyday working practice across the county."




Hayley Stewart 

SEND Communications and engagement officer

Get involved and upcoming events

Cumbria's Early Years practitioners invited to register for free training on coproduction

Contact logo

Contact, the national charity for families with disabled children, provide accessible and jargon-free courses providing practical ideas to support disabled children and their families.

They will be running a series of training workshops for early years practitioners across Cumbria focusing on creating a 'co-production action plan' to improve coproduction across early years provision.

The series of workshops will:

  • Introduce co-production as a principle and highlight the benefits it can bring.
  • Raise awareness of the parent carer experience, the importance of empathy and building trusting relationships.
  • Use the cornerstones of co-production as a model to help Cumbria identify and build on existing good practice.
  • Develop an action plan for the area to take forward.
  • Create understanding that co-production is a 'long game'.
  • Describe how to measure parent engagement and co-production.

The three online sessions will be delivered by an experienced trainer, and will all run from 10:00 - 12:30. It is important that delegates attend all three sessions in the course. Dates are:

  • 6 October 2021
  • 8 December 2021
  • 3 February 2022

Places for this exciting opportunity are limited. Early years practitioners are asked to email Katie Clarke by 30 September to book or for more information.



Parents and carers invited to online Q&A with SEND leads

Q&A send leads

The latest regular Q&A sessions with the SEND leads for education, health and social care have been announced.

The sessions will be held using Microsoft Teams on Tuesday 12th October.

Parents and carers can choose from a morning session 10:00 - 11:00 or an evening session 18:30 - 19:30.

Although not a platform to resolve individual issues, the SEND leads will be able to provide advice and information on services, procedures and systems, and signpost to other services and sources of information.

Sally Senejko, senior manager for SEND and inclusion at Cumbria County Council will be joined by Di Routledge, area service manager for inclusion (social care) at Cumbria County Council and Alex Nancollis, designated clinical officer for SEND in Cumbria with the NHS.

SEND Alliance Cumbria, the new parent carer forum, will also be available at both sessions to provide advice and support from a parental perspective.

To book a place at either Q&A session, parents and carers are asked to email Hayley Stewart, stating whether you would like to attend the morning or evening session.



SEND Alliance Cumbria - last call for families to help set SENDAC's priorities

SENDAC transparent logo

SENDAC, the new parent carer forum for Cumbria, are asking families of children and young people with additional needs to help them set their priorities for working with the SEND Partnership for the coming year. 

After speaking with families from around the county they have created a list of issues and concerns, and are asking all parents, carers and children and young people to help rank them in order of priority using an online survey. 

Over 150 responses have already been received. SENDAC are asking for more before the survey closes at the end of September, as they are keen to ensure their work reflects the needs of families across the county.

Once families have had their say, the issues most important to them will be the first aspects of the SEND system SENDAC will focus on, working with the NHS and local authority in Cumbria to encourage the positive changes that families want to see.

SENDAC will share the results of the poll on their Facebook page, and will keep families up to date with progress via a new newsletter which they hope to launch in the Autumn term.



Positive behaviour support course for parent carers announced

Skills for people

Skills for People will be running a series of free workshops on Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) with Carlisle Mencap. 

PBS is recommended as the best way of supporting people with behaviour that challenges. The course has been created by parents and PBS trainers.

Delivered by Skills for People, working in partnership with Carlisle Mencap, NHS England and others, the course of three workshops for parent/carers will be held on Zoom on the following dates:

  • PBS workshop 1 - Friday 8th October, 10:00 - 12:30, is an introduction to positive behavioural support and helping parents/carers to better understand their child's behaviour.
  • PBS workshop 2 - Friday 15th October, 10:00 - 12:30, is a more practical workshop looking in more detail at strategies for supporting a child's behaviour.
  • PBS workshop 3 - Friday 22nd October, 10:00 - 12:30, looks at creating PBS support plans and provides extra support and guidance to help with this.

This course is for parent/carers of children with additional needs in North Cumbria, however other workshops are planned for families in other areas across the region, so keep an eye out for details in future editions of this newsletter.

Parents/carers can book a free place on the course by contacting Jillian Allan on 07841 462782 or by sending her an email using the link below.



SEND news

New lead for Cumbria's educational psychology service champions closer working with schools

Cumbria's psychological service and specialist advisory teaching teams are now managed by Dr Ruth Illman, principal educational psychologist and Dr Andrea Henderson, deputy principal educational psychologist, assisted by area leads and specialist lead teachers, alongside Sue Sanderson, senior educational psychologist.

Ruth will be championing closer working between the county psychological service and specialist advisory teachers team. The teams will also be working closely with SENCOs, schools and other settings to ensure support is available equitably across the county.


'Time to talk next steps' initiative for 16 - 25 years olds provides support

NDTI logo

The National Development team for Inclusion have launched a new three-year programme to support young people with additional needs to build confidence, provide motivation and make plans for the future.

The support is free for young people in England aged 16 - 25 with additional needs. It is aimed at young people who are experiencing anxiety, isolation and who have limited or no plans for the future. They may be in school or in college or have finished all education and be unsure how to move forward.

The project is being delivered in partnership with national disability charity Contact.



New guidance published on delivery of specialist 1:1 interventions

The Department for Education, Department for Health and Social Care and NHS England have worked with education and health partners, including the Royal Colleges and the Association of Educational Psychologists, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, Association of Colleges, the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, along with the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and the Council for Disabled Children, to develop new guidance which sets out the expectations for the delivery of specialist support for children and young people.  

The guidance is clear that education settings should welcome all specialist staff and facilitate their work with children and young people.

This guidance aims to address any misconceptions around what should be delivered and to provide clarity in three broad areas:

  • Ensuring full access to provision.
  • What safety precautions should be considered.
  • The importance of working with families and carers.



Cumbria SEND partnership still awaiting notice of reinspection

OFSTED and the CQC jointly inspected Cumbria's SEND services in 2019.

The inspection led to a written statement of action being produced, detailing how the county would address the issues raised. 

Re-inspections had been delayed during the pandemic but restarted earlier this year. A revisit by inspectors to assess progress is now overdue, so could be announced anytime.

Inspectors will give 10 days notice of their visit, which is expected to be an 'in person' on-site visit, using Cumbria House in Carlisle as a base.

The inspectors will want to speak with children and young people with SEND and their families, along with professionals across education, health, social care and the third sector. It is expected that meetings will be a mixture of in-person and virtual meetings, but this will become clearer once the revisit date is confirmed.

There will be an online survey for parents and carers which will be open for 5 days and a meeting with inspectors too. Further information on how to access the survey and the inspectors meeting will be shared once the revisit is announced, so keep an eye out for future E-bulletins from the SEND Improvement Programme landing in your inbox.


Regular features

All of Us Forum News

All of Us logo

The All of Us forum is the group for young people with SEND in Cumbria to come together, chat, have fun and influence the things that matter to them.

The group is facilitated by Liz Wright, children and young people's rights officer at Cumbria County Council. Liz told us

"We are always looking to find out what children and young people think.  If you would like to share your views, join our All of Us forum or just get some more information please contact me.

"So far we have looked at things like transport, short breaks, work experience and words used about ‘transition’ or next steps as we prefer! But there is always room to look at something different, as we are led by what the young people want to discuss."

Liz would like to hear from schools and settings that she could support to bring young people along (virtually at the moment, but hopefully in person again in the not too distant future), and of course she would love to hear from young people themselves and their families too.



Your SEND health questions answered


Lyn Durrant, Assistant Director of Nursing for children and young people at North Cumbria Integrated Care

In July we asked if you had any questions for Lyn about  SEND health. Here she answers your questions...

My child has cerebral palsy and is affected by hypotonia (low muscle tone). How can health professionals help her school to support her? Some staff say they feel unsure and nervous when it comes to assisting her, especially with mobility and with using the toilet.

Our physiotherapy teams are able to support staff in education settings with guidance and advice in areas such as moving and handling and mobility around the school. Following an initial assessment, advice would be provided along with a plan for how to manage general mobility around school, including if appropriate, guidance around accessing toilet facilities. The physiotherapy team would also provide equipment to support mobilising, such as walking aids as well as providing advice for supporting the child in PE lessons.

Our occupational therapy teams also have a role in offering advice on any adaptations that may be required, for example handles in the toilet area.

Whilst schools are responsible for the overall general moving and handling training of their staff, our physiotherapy and /or occupational therapists can, if required, provide bespoke training for staff with techniques for individual children.


What measures can be put in place to help children with conditions that affect their ability to write extensively, e.g. hypermobility or conditions that affect fine motor skills? Would the Occupational Therapy services be best placed to advise or are there other services that could suggest strategies to help?

If a young person is having difficulties with writing for long periods of time due to hypermobility or other conditions that impact on their writing stamina then adjustments to their environment need to be made to enable them to share their knowledge and ideas. This may include changes to their position when writing, pencil type/grip or the use of a writing slope.  In addition to this the use of technology such as a laptop or tablet should be explored along with the use of a scribe where appropriate.

To ensure that the task and learning environment are right for the young person, think M.A.T.C.H: 

  • Modify the task- reduce the writing that is required, use of work sheets or printing presentations.
  • Alter expectations- consider the ultimate goal of the task, can you allow extra time, use of technology or a scribe to enable the young person to achieve?
  • Teaching strategies- adjustments may need to be made to teaching styles.
  • Changing the environment- pay attention to what’s going on. Are they tiring when writing? How are they sitting? How are they holding their pencil?
  • Help by understanding- having an understanding of the young person’s difficulties will allow for problem solving and overcoming challenges faced.

Making these adjustments to best support the young person is imperative to ensure that they can demonstrate their academic ability.

The Children and Young People’s Occupational Therapy service is perfectly placed to offer an assessment of the young person focusing on goals which are meaningful to them and provide specialist advice and strategies to support the young person, their families and the education setting. 

Below are two useful resource sheets with information and advice for families and settings:



More details about children's occupational therapy services, including how to refer to us, can be found on the North Cumbria integrated care website.



What happens when children get too old to be under the paediatrician? Do they automatically get transferred to adult health services?

For children and young people who will requiring ongoing health care into their adulthood we will work with them to plan transition to adult services. This can vary depending on the young person’s needs and can range from a full multi-disciplinary team to a single medical practitioner.

We are implementing transition frameworks that will support the process and ensure we look at all elements of the young person’s needs. We will use this framework to liaise with our adult colleagues to make a plan for ongoing care.

As part of the SEND improvement work there is a working group focusing on transition to adulthood specifically, and we in health services are working with our partners from education, social care and the third sector as we all recognise that this is an area that needs more focus.


Call for questions

Call for questions - Julie Jones, systems development and information officer for Cumbria's SEND Local Offer will be answering your questions about the SEND local offer website.

Cumbria’s SEND Local Offer website is the central information point for families with children and young people aged up to 25 years with special educational needs and/or disabilities.




SEND resources

Discovering Crisis Tools - a Healthy Teen Minds event

Crisis tools

Health Education England and Healthy Teen Minds have worked together with young advisors who are experts by experience to create a suite of 'crisis tools'.

The aim is to help individuals supporting young people in mental health crisis to develop their confidence, knowledge and skills. Crisis Tools is relevant to anyone who may find themselves supporting a young person in crisis, including health and care, education or any other professionals, including parents and carers.

Young people, their families and practitioners are invited to join an online lunchtime session, where they will hear from those involved in the creation of the resources, including the young people with lived experience who led on the production of the learning guides. Attendees will also discover how Crisis Tools can help improve confidence in supporting young people in a mental health crisis, and why it is so vital that those with lived experience played a central role in its creation.

The online session is from 13:00 - 14:00 on Thursday 7th October.



Kooth provides neuro diversity resources


Popular mental health and wellbeing website Kooth has a number of articles and resources relating to neurodiverse conditions.

Users need to be registered with Kooth to access the resources, but registration is free and users are completely anonymous.


Once registered, users can use the handy links below for direct access to each of the articles/resources:


And finally...

virtual meeting

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

As the year rolls on and Autumn approaches we want to reassure you that even when the upcoming reinspection is complete (whenever that may be), Cumbria's SEND Partnership, including the local authority, health partners and parent carer forum SENDAC are committed to ensuring that this programme of work to identify gaps and drive improvements to SEND services will continue.

We recognise that there is still much to do, and as such are working to embed a continuous improvement approach across the county.

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 hope that we can all start to meet in person again soon.