East Sussex commissioning update

ESPCF meets every half term with the SEND (special educational needs and/or disabilities) commissioning team at East Sussex County Council. It’s an opportunity to hear updates and share feedback.

At our recent meetings, we heard from the joint commissioning manager about a new brokerage programme which has been introduced to try and ease the workload on the assessment and planning team, as well as meet new requirements from HM Revenue and Customs about how services are commissioned.

The commissioner’s update is further down this page, but we wanted to add a bit of comment as well.

Availability of short breaks

Short breaks are a range of services that support children, young people, and their families. They allow children and young people some time away from their families while enjoying new experiences (East Sussex Local Offer page). For more information, visit the local authority’s short breaks page available here.

At our meeting we heard the good news that the total number of short break hours has significantly increased:


You’ll see that there is a noticeable increase in the uptake of short breaks hours from 11,350 in 2021-22, up to 23,714 in 2023-24. This is an increase of 109%, which is great news.

We’re keen to hear from parent carers if you have noticed or benefited from this increase. You can email or phone us – details at the bottom of this page – or complete our simple feedback form, which can be done anonymously.

Is there anything else you would like to share which we can feed back in our meetings with the commissioners? We know from feedback that some families with children with complex needs are struggling to find accessible short breaks with the appropriate support in place. Please let us know your experiences so we can build a picture of what is happening ‘on the ground’ for SEND families, which we can represent in our meetings.

Brokerage programme

In relation to the brokerage programme, this is now underway and comprises a small team which is responsible for commissioning and quality assurance of provider organisations of various provisions, for example: therapy services not provided by the  NHS CITES services, and/or tutors, when these are included in a child or young person’s educational, health, and care plan (EHCP). The brokerage team sits within the commissioning team and includes the Interim Provision Service which supports EOTAS (education other than at school) packages.

This work has been happening behind the scenes and the point of contact for families will continue to be assessment and planning officers (APOs). We have asked that this is kept under review, as it is well documented that families often struggle to get hold of their APO, or even know who they are, or when there has been a change in personnel. As mentioned further up, we hope that the new brokerage team will ease some of the APO workload so that communication for families will also improve.

We have already had feedback about smaller / ‘sole trader’ providers who may not have all of the policies and procedures in place that East Sussex County Council is asking for as part of its quality assurance process. Whilst we understand the importance of checking that provision is safe, that there are the right insurances, qualifications, and checks, including the DBS check, in place, we know that families are concerned at missing out on suitable support if processes are overly bureaucratic. We are taking this feedback to our next meeting for further discussion, and we’ll share any updates with you via our regular emails to members, social media, and this news page.

Payments to providers

We have previously heard from families about delayed payments, caused by capacity issues, by the local authority to providers. This meant that families were left without proper provision or support because those providers, who are often self-employed, were reliant on timely payments to be able to continue working with that child or young person.

We heard from the commissioning team that the brokerage team has now taken over the payment process, has dealt with the backlog, and is now making payments on time. Our understanding is that this is currently only for contracts under the Interim Provision Service.

If any parent carers are still experiencing difficulties with delays to provider invoices, we’ve been advised the APO should still be the first point of contact.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 3rd July, so please do share any feedback with us which we can take back to the team.

Update from Andy Stowell, Joint Commissioning Manager at East Sussex County Council

Over recent years there has been an increase in demand for Education Other Than School (EOTAS) provision and an increase in private provision “outside of school system” for children and young people with SEND. This has led to a range of resource implications for East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and difficulties of provision supply within a competitive marketplace.

To support our front-line Assessment and Planning Officers a “Brokerage Programme” has been initiated by the Joint Commissioning Team to address the aforementioned difficulties whilst aiming to deliver increased customer satisfaction, quality assurance standards, efficiency, invoice processing and visibility of available provision.

Key deliverables of the programme:

  1. Creation of a brokerage team to support in the resourcing of educational provision outside of the school system, which is documented in Section F of the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
  2. Procurement of a preferred supplier framework that will enable the brokerage team to efficiently engage with quality assured providers.
  3. Centralise our quality assurance standards and protocols, for the evaluation of potential providers.
  4. Centralise financial monitoring and invoice quality assurance standards in the aim of providing a more efficient service to our providers.
  5. Create an enhanced offer of choice to children, young people, and their families.

The brokerage team went live on the 11th January 2024 and has already been extremely busy in securing the services of qualitative providers from the initial request to fully contracted provision.

Please note the brokerage team is not a front-line service and any queries regarding individual provision arrangements should be made directly to your Assessment and Planning Officer.

Quality Assurance Standards for Providers:

  • Enhanced DBS Check – an Enhanced DBS check is the highest level of criminal record check carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
  • Professional qualifications and CV (if applicable)
  • Professional Body registration (if applicable)
  • Public Liability Insurance – minimum £10 Million (waivers to the value can be made in some circumstances)
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance (Teachers & Tutors only)
  • Check employment status for tax (IR35)

Potential providers who do not fully meet our quality assurance standards will not be engaged in the provision of services for children and young people with SEND.

Andrew Stowell – Joint Commissioning Manager – East Sussex County Council


Note: This page was updated at 5.07pm on Tuesday 14th May to include the confirmed short break hours figure for 2023-24 of 23,714, replacing the estimated number of 25,000 which was in the original post and cited as such.