We are aware that many people are facing delays or have been unable to contact the Special Educational Needs Statutory Assessment and Provision team (SENSAP) - we attended a Parent Carer Meeting last week facilitated by Leeds City Council Voice & Influence team and we raised a number of questions directly with the SENSAP team regarding current delays & difficulties with communication - in the meeting it was suggested that perhaps they could share a communication that we could then pass on to families with an update on their current situation and capacity - the email from them is below:
During this last year, the SENSAP service has faced particular challenges linked to staffing and capacity issues and this is an identified area for improvement. The majority of issues we have with meeting statutory timescales and expectations around communication are related to the lack of capacity within the team to deal with unprecedented amounts of requests for EHC Needs Assessments, as well as the other pressures relating to processing annual reviews in a timely manner. Despite this, this year we achieved near 100% compliance with both of our statutory change of phase deadlines of 15th February, and 31st March, respectively. (this is for children moving into primary or secondary school)
Regarding the progress made by the SENSAP service over the summer months, I do have a positive update. The senior leadership team have acknowledged that urgent assistance is required to improve this service and this has been delivered in two ways. Firstly, the service has received resources in the form of additional staff members and although it will take a little bit of time for these officers to be fully trained, we are already seeing a positive impact in the backlogs of work.
The second improvement is that the service has been reorganised so that staff are more agile; meaning that officers will be equipped to support workstreams which are under pressure at short notice. The latter is a preventative measure so that statutory timescales are not impeded by any internal functions as they have been in previous months.
Finally, we have made changes to the way in which decision discussions are made around new EHC Needs Assessment requests, which will hopefully make parents feel more included in the process and be more able to understand how we make our decisions, which we hope will lead to a reduced need for mediation or appeal processes. Parents will be invited to the discussion with the casework officer and a range of other professionals from health, education and social care. We are confident that this will lead to more robust and transparent decision making.
In the meeting we were advised of the following:
Should you need to speak to someone at SENSAP please try to contact your casework officer in the first instance or email email@example.com
If you have already been trying to make contact but have not been able to resolve your issue there is now a resolutions officer in place but you will need to make a complaint via the Leeds City Council complaints process for your issue to be escalated to the SENSAP resolutions officer.