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MP calls for "complete culture change" in Suffolk special educational needs service

PUBLISHED: 17:58 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 08 March 2019

Sandy Martin says a general election should not be held until Brexit is agreed. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Sandy Martin says a general election should not be held until Brexit is agreed. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

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MPs in Suffolk have called for a "complete culture change" in Suffolk's crisis-hit special educational needs service, with demands that the problem "needs to be fixed".

Matt Hancock said the situation with special educational needs in Suffolk needed fixing. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNMatt Hancock said the situation with special educational needs in Suffolk needed fixing. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A joint inspection published by education and health watchdogs Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission this week found Suffolk’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) service was failing to improve in three out of four areas.

It followed a poor inspection two years ago in January 2017.

Now, Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has backed calls by the county council’s opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups for an independent review.

“There needs to be a complete culture change,” he wrote in his column for the East Anglian Daily Times.

“Our county council and our health service are meant to help us get the services we need, and parents shouldn’t have to fight to get the right care and education for their children.

“The structural improvements in management are unlikely to do much to make the service more responsive to parents.”

Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk and health secretary, has demanded that the situation is solved.

“When children are vulnerable and have special needs, as a society its our job to be there,” he told the BBC.

“It needs to be fixed. It is primarily an education responsibility, and I’ll play my part in solving it.”

Mr Hancock said that he was meeting with Ed Garratt, chief officer at Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups and said he would make sure they would discuss the situation.

The SEND service, run by Suffolk County Council and the CCGs, was the first in the country to fail a re-inspection, and will now have its future decided by NHS England and the Department for Education.

Options open to national chiefs could include intervention, forming a ‘trust’ model of special educational needs, issuing the county council and CCG with a series of improvement notices or even outsourcing SEND provision.

While a firm date for when national bosses will meet with county SEND leaders has not been revealed, NHS England said they would be sitting down “in the coming weeks”.

County council cabinet member for education, Gordon Jones, said that the service must “increase the pace of change” and added: “Many of Suffolk’s services are working well to support the county’s children and young people with SEND, but much more needs to be done to ensure they are able to achieve their full potential regardless of the challenges they may face.”

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