Luton Council - ‘we let children down’

Two senior council officers in Luton have said sorry for letting down a number of children and young people in special needs education “over quite a long period of time”.

The failings of the borough council and its health partners were highlighted by an Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) joint inspection of the Luton local area.

The shortcomings relate to the way special educational needs and disability reforms are implemented in Luton and will lead to regular monitoring of the local authority’s planned response.

“There is a lot of work going on quickly to attend to the issues identified,” according to interim service director for quality, improvement and practice innovation, Gerard Jones.

“We have taken some immediate steps to increase capacity in the service, so it’s strengthened in its response to these children with additional needs,” he told a meeting of the borough council’s children’s services review group.

“We have to submit our written statement of action to the Department for Education by May 22.

“They will review that and consider whether it’s fit for purpose.

“If that’s agreed they will be monitoring our progress through regular visits. We will get quarterly monitoring visits.

“Our position about it is to put our hands up and say things have not been as they should have been in many ways.

“We are conscious about that. We are sorry about that. And we wanted to move very quickly and decisively to address the problems that are there.

“We had quite a challenging inspection. It’s not just an inspection of Luton Council services,” he added.

“It’s an inspection of the local area, that’s our schools, the council and the health provision, the CCG.

“We are required to provide a written statement of action about what we’re going to do to attend to those deficiencies.

“I have taken over responsibility for developing that plan of action. Amanda Lewis has taken over as chair of the special educational needs improvement group.

“We have an experienced assistant director from the Cambridge Community Health Trust, who has been seconded to work full-time with us and with our partners, to deliver the improvements we all want to see in place.”

“The Ofsted report was not good, was it? It was pretty poor,” said Liberal Democrat Crawley councillor Terry Keens, who was chairing the review group.

Mr Jones said: “We are talking to parents about these findings, There was perhaps a wider group of parents who were less happy and that we weren’t in touch with.

“We are wanting to have those meetings and to apologise and to respond to the concerns people are bringing forward.”

The council’s corporate director people Amanda Lewis described it as “a very challenging report”.

“We know it raises questions around our governance, about escalation of issues, around accountability, all of those things which we are working to,” she told the review group.

“So it’s about how do we learn from that,” she said.

“It has had a significant impact for staff even though from a frontline perspective there’s a really important message about their passion and commitment, and a number of things that are really positive.

“But there is no doubt there are a number of children and young people who over quite a long period of time haven’t had their needs met.

“And that is not an acceptable position,” she added. “I will take that challenge back. The designated safeguarding lead in schools should also be there to support governors in what they need to do.”

The council’s response is due to be discussed at a meeting of the executive on Monday. (Mar 25th)