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Dear Cllr. Roberts and Cllr. Frost,

We are writing in response to the recent Ombudsman ruling which identifies a series of ‘injustices’ on the part of Richmond Council (poor record keeping, unnecessary delays, failure to follow process and poor communication with parents), and which led to the Ombudsman making the unprecedented recommendation that the Council “complete an audit of all the children for whom the company appointed to run its SEN provision is responsible”.

The systemic failures identified by the Ombudsman echo both those that were noted when Kingston Children’s Services[1] failed its recent SEND Ofsted inspection, and those that the parent community has been evidencing to Richmond Council and Achieving for Children (AfC), and within that to senior members of the current management, for many years. These concerns have been raised through regular Council forums such as the CYPwDLD[2], and through the parent carer forums that were in place from 2007 - 2018. We note that the last parent carer forum closed citing AfC’s failure to act upon such evidence. The failures identified continue to affect families in Richmond. 

We are therefore pleased that Richmond Council accepts the findings and recommendations of the Ombudsman report. 

We would like to know how the audit required by the Ombudsman will be conducted, the full nature of its scope and how the findings will be reported and reviewed. Specifically, we would like a guarantee that this audit will be led by an impartial body (fully independent of AfC), and that all parents of children with EHCPs, past and current, including those who have been refused an EHC needs assessment or a final plan, will be contacted by the independent auditor to ask if they have been affected by the issues highlighted by the Ombudsman. We believe that only by understanding the full scale of the systemic failures in the operations of Achieving for Children, will improvements for children with disabilities, and their parents/carers, be made possible.

We look forward to cooperating fully with this audit, and with the service improvements that will follow it.

 

Yours sincerely, 

 

Richmond Trustees of SFV (official parent carer forum 2015-2018): Sophie Camilleri, Rachel Derrick, Penny Hoffmann-Becking, Lisa Train

Co-Chairs RPCAG (official parent carer forum 2007-2015): Mireille Nemhe, Barry Woodward

SEN Advisor, RUILS: Alex Hardy

 

The following local voluntary organisations support this letter:

Skylarks, Richmond Mencap, 21&Co, Phyz, Richmond Dyslexia, SOS SEN, Post-16 Maze

 

[1] Delivered by Achieving for Children

[2] Children and Young People with Disabilities and Learning Disabilities Forum, held quarterly and chaired by Cllr. Frost and attended by representatives of local disability groups and AfC officers.

 

Links

Kingston SEND Ofsted 2018:   https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50036675

Ombudsman's report Oct 2019 / Jan 2020 : https://www.lgo.org.uk/information-centre/news/2020/jan/ombudsman-finds-multiple-failures-with-richmond-children-s-services-provider

BBC News Story Jan 2020: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-51107400