To receive a report from the Chief Executive.
Cllr Jane Davies, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, SEND and Inclusion presented the report seeking approval to commission Specialist Early Years SEND support from District Specialist Centres (DSC) and Wiltshire Portage.
It was explained that Wiltshire Council currently commissioned services from five charities across the county to provide specialist nurseries and pre-schools Early Years support for children with SEND, along with home visiting education service to 75 early years children with SEND each week. This assists the Council in meeting the requirements set out within the SEN Code of Practice to meet the statutory duty of ensuring accessible provision is available for children under five years with SEND.
Cabinet noted that the current contract ended on 31 March 2024 following a two-year extension. The report highlighted the proposal to divide the two services into two contracts, a DSC contract and Portage contract, with staggered starting dates – Portage starting on 1 April 2024 and the DSC contract starting on 1 September 2024.
Cllr Laura Mayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills expressed her support for the proposals and highlighted the importance of mainstream inclusion.
Cllr Jon Hubbard, Chairman of Children’s Select Committee, reported that he, along with the Vice-Chairman of the Select Committee had attended a briefing on the report on 9 October 2023. In supporting the proposals, he voiced a concern about the sufficiency of the funding uplift over the five-year period. Officers indicated that they had considered the inflationary position, and as a consequence had front-loaded the inflation uplift for year one and remained confident the costs would be covered for the lifetime of the contract.
In response to comments about Education Health Care Plans and support towards fundraising for the Charities that provide the specialist early years education,.members noted that the demand for EHCP’s was continuing to increase and that knowledge from the current contract arrangements is informing outcome measures to be included in the new contract specification. It was noted that the current providers receive fund raising and charitable donations aimed towards value added services.
That Cabinet approves:
DSC - Re-tender the service, award and conduct implementation and TUPE before the 31 August 2024 using a codesigned specification that meets the challenges arising and needs of early children with SEND. The contract length will be for five years with an option to extend the contract for a further five years, giving a maximum contract length of 10 years.
Portage - Re-tender the service, award and conduct implementation and TUPE before the 31 March 2024 using a codesigned specification that meets the challenges arising and needs of early children with SEND. The contract length will be for five years five months with an option to extend the contract for a further five years, giving a maximum contract length of 10 years.
Reason for Decision:
1. District Specialist Centres (DSC) and Portage assist Wiltshire Council in meeting the requirements set out within the SEN Code of Practice to meet the statutory duty of ensuring accessible provision is available for children under 5 years with SEND.
2. Development of service to meet the needs of Wiltshire children with SEND
3. Cabinet is asked to authorise the method outlined to complete a tender process that delivers value for money through the new contract.?