Covid causing ‘more complex needs’ among Peterborough children
Covid has resulted in Peterborough children suffering with more complex needs, according to two leading figures at the city council.
In an interview with the Peterborough Telegraph to discuss the system for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the city, council corporate director for people and communities Wendi Ogle-Welbourn said: “One of the things, and it’s a national issue, is we are seeing children presenting with more complex needs.
“Having the resources you need to meet those complex needs is incredibly challenging. We’re seeing whether we need to build something regionally or sub-regionally to meet the very complex needs of children.
“The numbers are not so concerning, but the complexity we’re seeing and the variety of services we need to meet those needs are not always available at the level we need it. But we have identified that.
“The positive around mental health is across public health, social care, education and the CCG (clinical commissioning group) we’ve commissioned a new mental health service.
“It’s a one-stop shop where people can be referred to, so they won’t be bounced around, and children and young people can be referred to the most appropriate provision.”
Service director for education Jonathan Lewis added: “Covid is starting to throw up some issues with children needing support for the mental health side.
“We’re seeing some new needs develop, particularly around some of the behavioural challenges.
“We’ve set ourselves up to deal with this capacity. Part of the development and investment we’ve made into our systems is to be able to track where we are much better.
“Yes (the numbers needing support) is going up, but we can cope with it, and we’ll have to put in more resource if we can’t.”
The pandemic has a huge impact on parent carers, with a recent report from charity Family Voice Peterborough highlighting the “devastating” impact whether it be financial, accessing food, loss of support services, isolation or lockdown impacting the behaviour of a young person with additional needs.
Ms Ogle-Welbourn said: “Some of our health services were re-directed to support our hospitals, so there was a reduction in face-to-face services but also in the level of services.
“For each of the children and young people we were working with we worked out what we could do to mitigate the impact.
“They did use digital, and some of our families have fed back that they found it better, particularly around parenting-type programmes, but with other challenges digital isn’t appropriate and you need face-to-face.
“It is getting back to more normal now.”
In the week before the interview, Mr Lewis said the percentage of children with an Education, Health and Care Plan attending school in Peterborough was 83.4 per cent, against an England average of 80.6 per cent.
He said schools are working “really hard” on catch up, but that this will be at least a three year process.
Mr Lewis added: “Virtual working for some of these areas has been successful. Parents have liked some of it because it’s less intimidating than going into a school and going through the whole process.
“I think we’ll keep some of the virtual way of working for some areas.
“Speech and language therapy worked quite well through this route and people have been able to learn because they’ve been able to record and understand what they’re doing and share it.
“It’s been an interesting development and we’ve done everything we can to support children.”
Mr Lewis said there is “greater inclusion” of children with SEND in mainstream schools than previously, and that there are currently enough special school places in the city.
On the provision of post-16 education, he said there is a “great offer” at City College Peterborough adding: “Our focus on post-16 education is really important but it’s more about transitioning young people into adulthood.
“One of the areas we’re looking to develop and do more work on is things like supported internships and community-based employment so they are ready and it’s not a big cliff edge when you come out of the education system and into the adult system.”