SEND In Early Years Campaigning

As mentioned in our recent Mailout, your Board Members have been fighting for greater support and remuneration for SEND in Early Years, with e-mails going out to many people in positions of power. A member of the Board has thankfully given permission for one of these e-mails to be replicated here to give everyone some idea of a similar message they could write and send on, to amplify the voices being heard.

Dear Sharon,

I feel compelled to write to you after a couple of issues came to light this week. I know reforming the world of SEND in the city is a work in progress -but it has felt like it has been a work in progress for a very long time now and the reality for some of our children with SEND and their families is depressing and inadequate. The concerns raised this week are nothing new, and that is why it is so depressing, but I write in the hope that some urgency might be applied to addressing the issues that are causing the problems at the front line.

In my nursery we are supporting a little boy with quite marked developmental delay; he came to us last September on the 2 year old early education funded offer. It became immediately apparent to us that he was not developing as expected and we started to follow the graduated approach to support him and he was referred to the CDC for assessment and in due course referred to the Educational Psychology Service. I believe we could have got to this point earlier if the system of Integrated 2 year old checks that should be done as a partnership between the Health Visitor and the nursery, had been in place to support early identification. The poor establishment of this joint assessment was picked up by the Area SEND Inspection last year as a missed opportunity for early identification. This was further identified as a missing link in the Director of Public Health’s Annual Report for 2018 “ Fulfilling Lives for Under Fives” which states:

Recommendations/Conclusions/Next Steps

  1. Birmingham Forward Steps should develop locality links with the local private, voluntary, or independent providers of Early Years Education to enhance and enable the uptake of the Early Years 2-2.5 year assessment and educational entitlement offers.

I have been unable to get an update from anyone as to how much progress has been made in this area and feel as though I was repeatedly told that there had been a lot of personnel and structural changes -all well and good, and I do  understand that the right structures have to be in place to make systems work but it does feel like this has been a very long work in progress.

Early Identification is at the heart of my second concern. This same little boy, as I mentioned,  was referred to the Educational Psychology Service -he is now 3 years old and is developmentally at 8-20 months, and this week we received a letter simply telling us to re-refer in his Pre-school year. In the absence of a suitable explanation for the decision I am left to conclude that the system is just not working properly and is either so overloaded that it can’t cope with younger children or that there is a policy decision that children won’t be assessed until they are in their Pre-school year. I have lost count of the number of strategy workshops that I have sat in where everyone is talking about the benefits of early identification and that early intervention may mean that there are no long-term implications for the child and thus present a long-term cost saving.

My final point I am raising on behalf of another PVI provider who contacted the PVI Reps earlier this week about ISEY funding. Again, this is nothing new and has been raised on a number of occasions but has been put in the spotlight by the recent increases in the National Living Wage. Although ISEY funding is paid as a lump sum and not as an hourly rate, it has historically been calculated in this way and most of the providers I speak to need to use the ISEY funding to support additional staffing to support the needs of the child. These are very young children that we work with who are often non-verbal and have quite complex and yet often undiagnosed needs and settings are left sometimes guessing the best way to meet a child’s needs and to keep them safe. Often the only way this can be done is with one-to-one support. Given that a child’s nursery place is for 15 hours a week, if we split the £780 we are allocated for this term across each of the 13 weeks, we get £60 per week, if we divide that by the 15 hours a child attends then it works out at an hourly rate of £4. The National Living Wage went up to £8.21 at the beginning of the month. The numbers just don’t add up -before we start adding in NI contributions and holiday pay.

When I have raised this in the past, I have been told that the ISEY was never intended for one-to-one support, merely to enhance ratios, or provide additional resources. I am still trying to work out how you enhance a ratio without employing someone additional! Most early years providers are at the limit of existence financially and do their utmost to always be working at ratio to minimise losses.

If I can give you an example of a child we had last year, she was tube fed and had other additional communication needs meaning that if she got upset or frustrated she would pull her NG tube out. She had to be supported every minute that she was in nursery. It was not safe for her to be without constant supervision. I was in the difficult position that with the amount of ISEY funding I was receiving -at that time the equivalent of 7.5 hours at £8, I could only safely have her in nursery for half of her 15 hour entitlement. Quite understandably her mum was very cross about this and was talking about a legal challenge because her child was being discriminated against. Add to this that one of the best ways to help the child with her communication needs was to be in nursery, only having her in nursery for half of the time was having a detrimental effect on her development and therefore contributing to the problem not being resolved sooner. I know a number of nurseries that are finding themselves in this position at the moment and they are very worried about the introduction of the Education Inspection Framework in September that will specifically be looking at off -rolling and mentions that in the context of Early Years, this will be looking at children with additional needs having access to their full entitlement.

When I sat in the last Schools Forum meeting, which you attended, David Bridgeman described ISEY funding as “woefully inadequate”. I think we would all be hard pushed to disagree with him. A further anomaly to this funding is that if you manage to get an EHCP for one of these children then the amount of funding is immediately increased to £12 per hour because it is  SENAR funding and not ISEY funding and yet the child’s needs haven’t changed. If the need requires £12 an hour to be spent to address it, then why are we only paid £8 (or in reality £4) when it is being supported under ISEY?

I do recognise that all this needs to be taken in the context of the massive shortfall and deficit in High Needs Funding but I really feel that if we want to do more than pay lip service to the concept of early identification and early intervention then we need to take action, and sooner rather than later. The longer these children go without appropriate assessment, diagnosis and support the bigger and therefore more expensive the challenges will become.

I have copied in Sally Leese as Chair of Early Years Forum and Cllr Kate Booth as I feel that ‘the powers that be’ need to understand what life is like on the front line and for these children and their families.

I look forward to receiving your comments.

Kind regards”

 

We recommend sending your version of your experiences on to:

Councillor Kate Booth – Kate.Booth@birmingham.gov.uk
Head Of Early Years, Lindsey Trivett – Lindsey.Trivett@birmingham.gov.uk
AD Sarah Sinclair – Sarah.Sinclair@birmingham.gov.uk
and Area SENCO Team Manager Gillian King – Gillian.King@birmingham.gov.uk

 

Together we can advance the provision of SEND within Early Years!

 

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