Going well despite adversity…
Carol Robinson says it’s important to acknowledge the good work achieved by teams who are persevering under pressure.
We have all seen the headlines about councils struggling to make ends meet leading to loss of staff and big reductions in non-statutory services. It is altogether a depressing picture, but one local area has given me a sense of gratitude for a beleaguered but committed workforce.
Over the last 22 months, I have been working with people in B&NES council and various partner organisations to try and support a joined-up approach to implementing the SEND reforms for children and young people. My focus has been on supporting improvements in employment outcomes and education, health and care planning, particularly for the 14-25 age group. This has all been in the context of those aforesaid budget cuts, government targets for both the number and timeliness of education, health and care plans and recent changes to the locally commissioned health and care services. The local authority has £16 million to save over the next year and £37 million over the next three years.
Council leader Tim Warren said it was "the most difficult budget this council has ever had to set" adding it has "not been easy for anybody."
Despite this, I have found council staff in the SEND team, disabled children’s service, Youth Connect and the Employment & Skills, Economy and Culture department incredibly committed. The same is true for staff at Bath College and the Employment Inclusion service currently part of the outsourced, Sirona Care and Health (shortly to be Virgin Care). Whilst they would be quick to say nothing is perfect for children and young people with special educational needs, they have worked together to make a whole range of jointly agreed things happen including:
- a marketplace event for young people, professionals and parents
- a menu of support for students with special educational needs offered by Bath College and greater joined up working around education, health and care plans for young people who are transferring to college
- improved links between education, health and care plans and health checks for young people aged 14 and above
- more person-centred working in relation to work experience and study programmes including the development of Bath College’s SURE programme (a bespoke study programme for young people with high functioning autism)
- a clear pathway to employment that is now on the local Rainbow Resource (local offer)
- a business advisory committee for Project SEARCH, which operates successfully at both the Royal United Hospital and in the council
- The embedding of vocational profiles in the special schools to improve work experience and careers planning.
I am not being modest when I say that all of the really hard work is done by the partners. I cannot help but be impressed by people’s ability to persevere even when they find themselves in anything but ideal circumstances and probably worrying about their jobs and mortgages. Everyone I have worked with in B&NES always seems to be driven by a desire to make things better for the children and young people they work with so isn’t it time we gave them credit for that?
Click here to read more examples of learning and an evaluation of our work across the UK with the PfA Demonstration sites.
Dr Carol Robinson is the Positive Futures Lead at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
NDTi is an organisation that promotes equal and inclusive lives for people in their communities, particularly where ageing or disability are issues
Dr Carol Robinson's blog is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NDTi.