The key issues facing those responsibly for supporting people with special needs in Northumberland

The highest proportion of children and young people receiving support for special educational needs is found in north Northumberland.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 11th October 2019, 2:41 pm
Updated Monday, 21st October 2019, 2:34 pm
Northumberland County Council
Northumberland County Council

That’s one of the ‘key data messages’ included in the introduction of the latest version of the county’s joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA) for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

JSNAs are a national requirement in order to provide a clear assessment of an area’s needs for children and young people with SEND aged 0 to 25.

Among the other statistics in Northumberland’s new document is the fact that there are fewer children and young people receiving lower-level SEND support than before, but there is more demand for the higher-level and more formal education, health and care plans (EHCPs), especially among younger children and adults over 20.

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There is a greater prevalence of SEND among boys than girls in Northumberland and while there are greater numbers of children and young people receiving SEND support in the central and south-east areas, the locality with the highest percentage is the north.

The second version of the JSNA, which was presented to the county council’s health and wellbeing board on October 10, also highlights three general themes, which it says must be considered when planning provision and support for those with SEND:

Northumberland is a large county and the board heard there are challenges in providing equitable access to services across all areas, particularly the north and west;

The importance of early identification and workforce development;

The need to develop further data collection systems to increase understanding of the needs of the SEND population, particularly around health and social care.

However, Northumberland’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, told the meeting that this version of the JSNA is ‘a complete step-change to what came to the board 18 months ago’.

Presenting the report, Alan Hartwell, a senior manager at the council for performance – education and safeguarding, explained that one of the key differences from before was that the new document contains much more data from children’s and adult social care, health and housing services, rather than just being based on education and the school setting.

He also highlighted the new use of an interactive web-based tool, called Tableau, that can view the data on a geographical and age basis as well as produce forecasts of need based on long-term trend data.