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**NEW** Chair of the SEND Local Authority Improvement Board - Blog

Vicki Whittaker-Stokes

Welcome to the New blog by the Chair of the SEND Local Authority Improvement Board - Vicki Whittaker-Stokes.


Vicki will be adding to her blog on a regular basis, so please keep checking here for the latest information.


30th November 2020

Hi all,


As the nights draw in and the inevitability of lockdowns continuing into January, it could be said there is little joy around, but from my point of view there is, and a lot of that relates to the SEND agenda that I am lucky to play a role in at Walsall, I have positive news and an even more positive outlook for the work being done in relation to SEND at Walsall. Now please don’t take this as I think everything is rosy and there haven’t been, or will not be bumps in the road , because of course there will be, but with recent positive feedback, SENDIASS joining the board, the reduction in the need for mediation and the board review, there are reasons to be positive.


Underneath is a quick overview of progress being made (and if anybody wants more details please contact Jenny Thompson – or Helena Kucharczyk -

Progress continues to be made against the 184 actions outlined in the Walsall Written Statement of Action (WWSOA):

  • 23% (42) of actions have been completed and embedded. A further 63% are complete or in progress.
  • 8% (14) actions are delayed past their milestone dates across a number of Areas of Concern. Mitigating actions are in place for all delayed actions and these are reflected on the Risk Register with mitigations and revised dates for discussion.
  • 42 (23%) of the open actions are currently being measured against agreed revised timescales, none of which are causing any risk to the delivery of the overall programme.



Given the challenges and changes that COVID has bought along, this is certainly good performance and shows the continued commitment to the programme by all involved.


However, there have been some concerns that we are addressing, these are in Social Care and requiring more contribution to both EHC planning and more generally to strategic improvement planning for SEND and the some board members not being clear about work that is happening within health organisations in relation to improvement of SEND services. Since this risk has been raised a number of actions have been undertaken and progress made in addressing this risk. The first SEND Partnership Operational Meeting was held and was well attended by partners and the new Joint Commissioning Lead for the CCG has been appointed.


As at the 19th November the backlog of EHCP’s is down to under 5. This was from a starting point in March of 359. A huge thank you to everybody involved in making this happen, and I am ensuring that the final push will see all of the backlog completed by Christmas.


Other news sees the pilot of the Educational Health Care Plan Hub Pilot drawing to an end. Most SENCO’s have now been trained and it is intended that the Hub will begin to be used for new requests for assessment from November has planned. However the pilot has identified a number of complex issues and additional planning time is needed to resolve these ahead of the full implementation in relation to existing plans and reviews.  Additional resource is currently being sought to support the implementation from a service, admin and technical perspective.


The newly designed pages for the Local Offer are now available and content is starting to be updated and transferred. Selected test pages are beginning to be shared with groups of parents, carers, children and professionals to get their feedback on look, feel and ease of use. I think you will agree the new format is so much better!


As we go into the festive season, I hope this also gives you all hope of a better future for of families that need the extra help in relation to SEND.


Vicki xx

30th September 2020

The leaves are turning red and yellow and this is certainly my favourite time of the year, I love Halloween and bonfire night and the lead up to Christmas, yet I know for many families the return to school and the drawing in of the nights can bring extra challenges. Covid will certainly make the end of 2020 very different in our household this year.


Walsall Council is very aware of the challenges still being faced by many of our young people and families and with Health they are working hard to ease the pressures. In the last month further progress has been made on the EHCP hub pilot and the go live date will be November. This will give parents/carers/young people much more ability to see exactly what is happening with their young persons EHCP, where it is and empower parents/carers and the young person to challenge on any delays. On that note I am also pleased to say that the backlog of EHCP’s is steadily reducing and over the next month significant strides will be taken to reduce it even further.


In other news, we are expecting the results in from over 300 families in relation to EHCP and I will certain be sharing the headlines net month, zoom meetings are gaining momentum and this month we will be reviewing the governance of the board and my performance as Chair!!!!


The reset programme is in full swing and in September there has been training and support for SENCO’s, constant updating of guidance due to COVID and the government requests.

31st August 2020

It’s August, the sun is shining and I am already thinking about Christmas.


As Chair of the Board, I made a commitment to keep you all updated on progress and there has been progress made across so many areas within the actions listed in the “WSoA” (Written statement of Action). As you know the Board is made up from people across Health, Social Care and Education and we have been fortunate to have Pat Tate from Department for Education join us.


This month we took a look at how we have progressed in the areas of Autism and joint commissioning. For the area of Autism we have completed 16 of the actions and a further 5 are in progress with 2 being delayed.


In the area of Autism, the Autism Education Trust teaching programme will be delivering training to schools from September 2020. Transitional top up support funding is now in place and funding has been agreed for 64 children so far.  The EHCP team has been restructured and there is evidence that this is working as the backlog of EHCP’s is the lowest it has been and more people are receiving their final EHCP within 20 weeks. We are aware we have more to do to reduce the backlog even further.


In respect of joint commissioning, 16 have been completed, 3 in progress and 2 delayed. Some progress has been the newly commissioned home care framework which should give those in need better care within their own homes. We have increased the number of people getting direct payments, therefore choosing how they spend the money to ensure it is personal and meets the young person’s needs and work has started on a joint commissioning strategy which will provide more joined up services in the future, to further support young people, families and carers.


I hope this gives you confidence in the work being done and that we want and are making things better for the young people and their families and carers across Walsall.


See you in the Autumn, where I will give an update on the new EHCP hub and progress.


Good luck for the new school term!


Best Wishes



28th July 2020

Its July and we still have rain, but lockdown is easing and we are all finding our new normal. Whatever that means !


I know for many families with children with SEND coming out of lockdown is just as tough (and tougher in some cases) as it was back in March/April. Walsall BC has put together lots of information looking at the social and mental health and support available. If you are anything like me, I am already worrying about what challenges September may bring.


Now onto the main business, the SEND Improvement Board meeting. I found this one to be a positive meeting and I was pleased to hear how the Zoom meetings with parent/carers are gaining momentum, yet even with these there was much talk about how to engage through other avenues, maybe videos’, questionnaire and such like.


The EHCP hub us now in its pilot phase and in the coming months this will be tested prior to roll out, ensuring parents and carer’s and young people themselves are listened to. Progress has been made on catching up with the backlog of EHCP’s and we are on target. For parents that are still waiting for an update, there is information available on the website and if in doubt please contact you SEN advisor.


There is now a “you said, we did” activity log which contains some useful information on progress on the Written Statement of Action – please check here to see what else has been achieved.


The Local Offer is a key area of focus,  as it is important as parents and carers you have a place where you can go for information. This month I have asked for a plan with timescales so I can ensure Walsall delivers the best possible local offer in a timely fashion. This is a priority area.


I’m now off to walk my dogs in the rain and will update you on more progress in August.


‘Keep on swimming’ as Dory would say.



30th June 2020

Hello all,


Where do the months go? It is now three months since lockdown began and it appears the new normal is just becoming that normal. I am proud of the work that has gone into supporting families through this time. I am seeing is staff going the extra mile to support where they can. Please get in touch with Council representatives  in if you have any concerns during this period of unsettlement with Covid 19. Jenny Thompson can be contacted on 07584 543312 or at


We were lucky to have Pat Tate from the DFE join us for the recent Local Area Improvement Board  (SEND) meeting, it is great to have an outside challenge and it helps to keep us all on our toes. Some of my personal highlights are:


-          Seeing the work that has been done to address the issues relating to Covid and some of the positive feedback from parents.


-          The documents that outline the understanding that when schools re open children and families will be nervous and sending their children back and how the council could practically support.


-          Seeing the introduction of zoom  so parents/carers can be consulted through more modern means in addition to the coffee mornings already in place


-          Being informed that the team of people that oversee EHCPs is now staffed at the required level.


-          Receiving feedback from the DFE about the quality and pace of the changes.


However, I am not underestimating the work we have to do, we need to get better at our timeliness or of EHCP’s and to get the local offer pages of the website made accessible to all.


I will of course keep you updated on progress, challenges and changes as we go forward,



27th May 2020

Walsall Statement of Action for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)


In delivering the Walsall Statement of Action for SEND we have now embedded 14 actions, completed another 68, there are currently 38 actions in progress working towards successful completion, with a further 8 actions to be started without delay.


Areas of progress have included:

  • The Inclusion Strategy – which is now out for final consultation prior to its official launch. (time table in place for co-production)
    • The introduction of the Schools Causing Concern protocol.
    • The appointment of an interim Head of SEND
    • The development of the Educational Health Care Planning Hub
    • Improvements have been made to the functioning of the Autism Working Group and work has been completed with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
    • There has been significant progress in developing relationships with Regional Schools Commissioner, Diocese and Academy Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), with regular meetings now set up.
    • Much of the work around children and young people not in employment, education or training (NEETS) and apprenticeships is now completed and embedded.
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