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Joint statement from Sutton Council and Cognus regarding Cognus Board Minutes

A joint statement from Sutton Council and Cognus in response to the publication of Cognus board minutes.

Ian Comfort, Chair of Cognus, said:

“Cognus is committed to continuing working with Sutton Council as highlighted by the recent changes to governance, ownership and renewal of contract. Recent suggestions relating to Cognus’s financial position are categorically incorrect, as the positive response from the independent auditor’s to our financial reports at Sutton Shareholder Board shows.”

“It is important to highlight that under increasing demand Cognus services have continued to deliver as uninterrupted as possible throughout Covid-19. The majority of Therapy Services were delivered by Cognus during the pandemic, and it remains a valued and high priority service area. Cognus in partnership with the Council, schools and settings are currently developing an updated model to provide even greater support for children and families, which will have parent and carer feedback at its very core.”

“There are no targets to reduce EHCPs. A key part of preparation for adulthood is allowing a natural closing of an EHCP, which will often occur later in a child’s life, or may also be triggered for a number of other reasons, e.g. a child moving out of borough. All requests for ceasing EHCPs are dealt with on a case by case basis and are in line with Section 9 of the SEND Code of Practice from the DfE.”

“Cognus staff will continue to work with the Council and partners to provide innovative and educationally enabling services for Sutton’s children, families and wider community.”

A Sutton Council spokesperson said:

“Following the release of Cognus minutes we would like to recognise families’ concerns.”

“An issue with redacted documents being reconstructed arose because of an administrative process that was only used on this occasion. Other FOIs released by the Council are unaffected by this. The Council continues to work with Cognus, Sutton Parents Carers Forum and partners to provide a range of channels for feedback from parents and carers from across the borough to be raised. The Council can confirm there are no targets around ceasing EHCPs.”

“Partnership working continues to explore new ways to provide better, more targeted support such as annual reviews, for children and families. As part of the ongoing commitment to providing better services and transparency, the Council and Cognus alongside SPCF will be providing further information sessions on key subjects. This ongoing commitment to provision of services, rooted in parent and child feedback, has been built on the legacy of the Independent Expert’s report from 2019/20, as well as positive feedback from Ofsted, the CQC and Vicky Ford MP.”

Councillor Marian James, Chair of Sutton Council’s People Committee, said:

“I fully understand parents’ concerns as a result of Cognus Board minutes being publicised. I want to reassure parents that there are no targets relating to EHCP’s and that Cognus’s finances have been externally audited. Regarding “fact checking” of the independent report, as Chair of the People Committee, I asked to see the report prior to publication to ensure it had covered all the areas that I had asked the consultant to look at.”

“I am pleased to see that there will be further information sessions delivered in partnership with SPCF, the Council and Cognus. Clear and transparent communication with parents around SEND is an ongoing priority. To ensure communication continues across multiple channels, the Local Offer website, along with the Council and Cognus’s will be updated with clear FAQs regarding parent and carer’s concerns in agreement with Sutton Parent Carers Forum. This is one of the many channels and forums developed in partnership by both the Council and Cognus to provide opportunities for parents and carers to give feedback on education services.”