Devon is falling behind when it comes to providing for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), inspectors have found.

Inspectors Ofsted and CQC have raised ‘significant concerns’ about the county’s effectiveness following a joint inspection in December last year.

Inspectors visited a range of providers, staff and governers and spoke with children and young people with SEND, parents and carers, Devon County Council (DCC) and NHS officers.

In a letter to Jo Olsson, DCC’s chief officer for children’s services, Her Majesty’s Inspector Stephen McShane said the county had been too slow to implement reforms of 2014, which introduced single plans for education, health and care for young people with SEND.

It is also failing to complete assessments for health plan on time.

The letter added the county’s identification and assessment of children with autism spectrum disorder is not effective, with waiting times for assessments too long and no support in place while waiting.

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It added: “The local area is too dependant on parents, individual practitioners, schools or settings to ensure that children and young people with SEND receive the high-quality support and provision that they need to achieve well.

“The local area is not having enough impact on improving the life experiences of children and young people SEND and their families. Too many parents and carers of children and young people with SEND feel distressed, isolated and unsupported.”

Ms Olsson, who chairs the Devon Children and Families Partnership Executive, said the findings and recommendations of the inspection were ‘fully accepted’.

She said: “The SEND reforms were introduced in 2014 but our work as a partnership didn’t start in earnest until late in 2016.

“As a consequence, very many families experienced a service that was poor, which is unacceptable.

“We apologise sincerely and are all determined to build on our recent improvements.

“The inspectors recognised the joint commissioning strengths in the recent re-procurement of children’s community health services.

“Nevertheless, we know that we lost precious time, particularly in relation to the development of our response to autism spectrum disorder, an area where we also need to see radical change.”