A QUARTER of children in Cheshire West and Chester did not have a key development check to help spot special needs and disabilities by the time they were 12 months old, government inspectors found.

A joint inspection of the council’s special education needs and disabilities (SEND) service for young people by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) earlier this year also found that one in every five children had not had a development check at the age of two-and-a-half.

Inspectors said this was because the 0-19 universal health services had low staffing levels, and that leaders had attempted to support families in the borough by using different professional such as nursery workers to undertake the reviews.

But the inspection report, which was discussed by the council’s health and wellbeing board yesterday (Wednesday) said that the number of children receiving a key developmental check was ‘still below expected targets'.

The report also found amendments to education, health and care assessment (EHC) plans, which set out the requirements of young people who have been assessed to need additional support, were ‘significantly delayed’.

The report said: “The amendments to EHC plans made at the time of annual reviews are significantly delayed. This means that many updated EHC plans are not useful.

"Some parents described the annual review process as ‘a waste of time’. For some children and young people, this impacts negatively on their transition from one setting to another.”

It also found the educational psychology service lacked the required capacity because the department had struggled to recruit additional psychologists.

The inspection did find a number of strengths, including:

  • During the pandemic, many health teams and professionals were quick to provide services in a flexible way.
  • The identification of needs in early years is a strength in the local area.
  • There is a well-embedded ‘Action for Inclusion’ process that helps to identify children’s needs in early years.
  • Professionals from health and education worked together to develop training to target the identification of girls with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs and autism spectrum disorder.
  • Leaders provide special educational needs coordinators (SENCos) with training and support at well-attended local networks.
  • Leaders have invested in an improved offer of outreach support.
  • There is a clear commitment from the area for more children and young people to have their needs met in mainstream settings.

A letter to the council said: “Leaders are ambitious for children and young people with SEND.

"They have a clear understanding of the area and know what is working well and what needs to improve. Leaders use this knowledge to inform their strategic planning.”