'Unacceptable': Ofsted inspection reveals failures of Haringey Council SEND

Brian Leveson's son Zack. Picture: Wendy Charlton

Zack, whose father Brian Leveson has called the findings "completely unsurprising" - Credit: Wendy Charlton

An Ofsted report has raised “significant concerns” over Haringey Council’s services for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

An inspection with the Care Quality Commission highlighted a series of shortcomings including the “poor quality” of its education, health and care plans (EHCPs).

Waiting times to assess children with autism – which in some cases lasted longer than two years – were described as “unacceptable”.

There was also lack of partnership, communication and coproduction with parents and young people, inspectors found.

The report analysed how the council implemented reforms set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. Inspectors found “insufficient progress”. 

Haringey Council, which said it welcomed and accepted the findings, is now required to submit a written statement of action to Ofsted – alongside the local clinical commissioning group – explaining how it will improve. 

Strengths cited in the report included “good” academic outcomes for children with SEND, “inclusive” settings in early years, “knowledgeable and skilled” coordinators, and a “clear” self-evaluation outlining the service’s priorities.

Haringey Civic Centre. Picture: Ken Mears

Haringey Council has pledged to improve its services - Credit: Archant

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Inspectors said recent leadership changes at the town hall “ensured an increased sense of urgency in completing much needed improvements”.  

Haringey parent and SEND campaigner Brian Leveson told the Ham&High he was “completely unsurprised” by the report’s findings.  

The blogger, who has documented his difficulties with Haringey’s SEND services for years, said the department has “repeatedly tried to blame parents” for its failures on coproduction and EHCPs. 

“Parents can now think of themselves as being entirely exonerated by the outcome of this Ofsted inspection,” Brian said. “It's time for the vicious and vindictive culture of parent blaming to end.” 

An independent report commissioned by Haringey Council last year documented Haringey Council’s failures in SEND. Its findings were backed by local families who revealed problems with support and communication.  

Cllr Tammy Palmer, Haringey’s opposition spokesperson for children’s services, said it was “disappointing, but not at all surprising” that SEND services were “once again found wanting”.

Lib Dem councillor Tammy Palmer said poor quality housing in the borough was driving families into p

Lib Dem councillor Tammy Palmer said poor quality housing in the borough was driving families into poverty, with high fuel bills leaving little money for food. Picture: Haringey Lib Dems. - Credit: Archant

The Liberal Democrat said councillors and families had continuously raised “serious concerns” to the "highest level” including scrutiny reviews, deputations, a call-in of transport proposals and formal complaints.  

“For any parent of a child with special educational needs and disabilities, having trust and confidence in the department that should be there to support our most vulnerable children is vital” Cllr Palmer said.  

“This report shows that Haringey is not providing that trust, and it must be the catalyst this council needs to make this service fit for purpose.”

Healthwatch Haringey chair Sharon Grant OBE said it too was "unsurprised" by the findings. "Healthwatch has worked closely with Haringey patients and service users for some years and this report reflects what so many young people, parents and carers have told us," Sharon said.  

The chair added there was a particular "lack of a formal route" to facilitate parent participation and co-production.

Cllr Zena Brabazon, Haringey Council’s cabinet member for early years, children and families, said: “We welcome – and accept in full – the findings in this report by Ofsted and the CQC, which outline the strengths within our SEND services and the encouraging progress currently being made here in the borough, along with the inspectors’ recommendations for further improvements in certain, specific areas.  

“As the report states, our leadership team are already well aware of the deficiencies within the service and are working hard in tandem with our NHS colleagues to bring about the desired changes we all want to see.  

“We are working closely with our partners and are already developing a brand new partnership action plan, which will greatly improve the way we co-design/co-produce, communicate, engage and interact with carers and parents going forward."

Cllr Zena Brabazon, pictured in November at an event in Tottenham, has been elected as deputy leader

Cllr Zena Brabazon, pictured in November at an event in Tottenham, has been elected as deputy leader. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton/JMFfoto - Credit: John M Fulton

Cllr Brabazon added: “We would like to thank all stakeholders – but especially our carers and parents – for their valued feedback and inputs during this joint inspection.  

“We look forward to working closely and collaboratively in partnership with you all for the betterment of our children and young people with SEND in the future.” 

The inspection by Ofsted and the CQC took place in Haringey from July 5-9. Officers spoke to children with SEND; parents and carers; and staff from the local authority and the NHS. 

Inspectors visited a range of providers and reviewed performance data. Judgements took into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  

To read the report visit https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50170328