Published: 10:19, 08 May 2019
| Updated: 10:20, 08 May 2019
Top officials have apologised for the results of a "distressing" Ofsted report for children with special educational needs.
Kent County Council cabinet member Roger Gough, corporate director Matt Dunkley and Glenn Douglass from Kent clinical commissioning groups have shared their regrets about the "poor" services provided for these vulnerable children.
It comes after independent inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found "too many children and young people with special educational needs (SEND) do not get the support they need in Kent."
Parents and carers told inspectors they did not feel Kent cares about their children.
Inspectors wrote these guardians "are rightly upset, angry and concerned about the services and provision that their children receive".
At the children's, young people and education cabinet committee Cllr Gough said: "This is very distressing - this is not about getting a bad mark from Ofsted or CQC, it's about the fact we know families and children aren't getting their services.
"That's a dangerous reality and this is something we come across all the time.
"It is worth saying the report did not burst in on us from the clear blue sky nor were we shocked from the conclusions of Ofsted and CQC."
Cllr Gough apologised for the "distress" and assured the council was working to address issues raised in the report.
KCC's corporate director for children, young people and education, Mr Dunkley, who has a child with special educational needs, shared his regret about the situation stressing it is not a matter of not caring.
He said: "If you're a parent of a child in Kent, you're not necessarily interested in why it is or how it is, if how you're experiencing it is not giving you what you need and not how it should be.
"It's a matter of enormous regret we're at the stage described in the letter, where a significant number of parents that are frustrated with us and a confidence in both KCC, health services and school is at the very low level that is described.
"You can't be involved in children's services without acknowledging that's a serious situation we want to make better."
The inspector report also detailed how some schools in the county are not "willing" to accommodate for children and young people who need extra help.
Mr Dunkley added mainstream schools need to gain confidence they have the resources to provide services for these children, as not all pupils need to go to specialist schools.
"You can't be involved in children's services without acknowledging that's a serious situation we want to make better..." - Kent County Council corporate director Matt Dunkley
Inspectors also criticised the lack of involvement of parents and carers in the evaluation for provision for their children.
Every child with a special education needs is evaluated for an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP), a legal document which outlines their aspirations and the support needed to reach these goals.
According to a report last year, 61% of parents and carers in Kent do not receive their plans within the legal 20 week time-frame.
Mr Dunkley claims the backlog of plans could be why the service is not as children-centric as it should be.
He said: "Trying to work in an environment where you are not meeting deadlines and trying to clear a backlog when the backlog is growing must be challenging to remain child-centred.
"Parents are on the receiving end of that. They don't care about the situation of staff, they care about their child getting what they believe they are entitled to."
NHS services were also criticised in this inspection for their "fragmented" joint commissioning arrangements.
"This is very distressing - this is not about getting a bad mark from Ofsted or CQC, it's about the fact we know families and children aren't getting their services..." - Cllr Roger Gough
A statement from the accountable officer of the NHS clinical commissioning groups across Kent, Glenn Douglas, was read out at the meeting.
It read: "We are sorry the relationship between our organisations and parents and carers has broken down; that families across the trust with SEND provision within Kent and their experiences of our services often not being good enough.
"There are things we must do and are doing to improve the situation in Kent.
"These are the first steps of a long process. There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of trust to be rebuilt."
A SEND action plan has been written to tackle these issues, with intentions of hiring new staff to speed up the EHCP process.
There are also plans for joint working between KCC and the NHS to address long-standing issues such as Specialist School Nursing, with Speech and Language Therapy.