The results of the bi-annual Portsmouth Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) parent and carers’ survey have been published by Portsmouth City Council.

The survey was answered by parents and carers on behalf of 463 children and young people in the city with SEND – a representative sample of the total – and showed that the largest proportion of children and young people have needs that are related to communication and interaction (80%).

Although most children and young people (56%) of the families surveyed have an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP), an EHCP is not necessary to access services.

Whilst many parents feel their children are physically healthy and their needs are met, 54% of respondents feel that their children were experiencing poorer mental health with some dissatisfaction about needs being met.

Some parents and carers felt that their children need more help with making friends and meeting new people. It was also noted that young people needed support to be more confident in travelling independently. A number of initiatives are in place to help young people to become independent and prepare for adulthood, including ‘confident travel training’ for young people during the summer holidays.

36% of the sample feel that school and education support is working well, including individualised support and access to inclusion centres in mainstream provision and specialist schools.

To support pupils with SEND in schools, the council has expanded the Inclusion Outreach Service, which includes teachers from Solent Academies Trust, and organised a comprehensive programme of training for teachers, SENCO and Teaching Assistants.

The survey showed that there was some frustration around the lack of support from the schools and mentioned a disjointed admissions process, bullying, lack of one-to-one support and a difficulty in getting support and advice on further education, careers, and transport to school (37%).

The council has investigated the reasons behind this and is actively supporting schools to address this. The council is tackling this with initiatives like the Careers and Employability Hub which offers careers guidance for young people with SEND. In addition a transition protocol to help young people to progress from school to post 16 education has been developed in partnership with parents and carers, young people, schools and colleges.

There is also an education, employment, health and community support information group event every March for adults and young people with SEND or a learning disability.

55% of those with an EHCP are using the short breaks service. 70% of those families with a pre-paid card rate it as very good and the main benefit of the short breaks pre-paid card is to help financially with trips and purchases (85%). It also helps families spend quality time together (62%), encourages socialising (46%), and enables better access to activities (44%).

Other initiatives considered ‘very helpful’ are financial support for other essentials (65%), additional training for bus drivers (64%), and increase in personal budget (60%), and assistance with taking other children to school (57%).

Respondents suggested that improvements could be made to the Local Offer website in making the website easier to navigate, and with clearer more accurate information. Around a third of the sample have heard of and use the local offer website (34%), with 44% unaware of the website. The council is working with Portsmouth Parent Voice to improve the Local Offer website, which will make the website more user-friendly.

Access to services and not having any support were noted as an issue for SEND parents and carers, mentioned by 22% of the respondents.

The cost of living crisis was noted as having an impact on parents and carers of children and young people with SEND, with two thirds of the sample (66%) being less able or unable to meet the day-to-day cost of living. The findings show that a higher proportion of SEND families (compared to the local population in the council’s residents’ survey) are buying less food or cheaper food, trying to use less electricity and gas, using food banks, borrowing money and using credit.

Cllr Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council said: “Thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s survey. It is so important that we hear the views of parents and carers to understand what’s working well and what we can improve on.

“We’re a ‘needs-led’ city and there’s a lot of provision for children and their families when they need it, not just for those with and EHCP. We call this ‘ordinarily available provision’, and Portsmouth’s guidance is often held up as an example of best practice.

“Mainstream and special schools, alongside organisations like Enable Ability, CAHMS and Portage, the Sensory Impairment Service that supports children with vision or hearing impairments, support families and young people from birth to the age of 25. They support children and young people with a huge range of needs – anything that might mean that a child needs extra support with learning.

“We’re already making improvements to our services which cover some of the issues that came out of this year’s survey. I look forward to seeing the results of the next survey and the impact the changes that have been made.

“If your child needs extra help with their learning, for any reason, please speak to your school, or look on the Portsmouth SEND Local Offer website.”

See the full survey report.

See the Local Offer site for information, support and services for all children and young people aged 0-25 with special educational needs or disabilities.