HEALTH and education chiefs working against the clock to address Cumbria-wide failings in services for special needs children are on track to meet their first deadline.

A joint report by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission found that Government reforms launched five years ago had been “too slow” to be introduced in the county.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) partnership has until August 21 to produce a statement of action, setting out how they propose to respond to the weaknesses identified.

The inspection team completed their assessment in March and the Monday after they had left, work on the response was already underway.

Speaking at a meeting of Cumbria’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Dan Barton, assistant director of education and skills, said the team was “up against it in terms of time” but added: “I think we will be in a place where I think we will be on schedule.”

The health and wellbeing board will now hear bi-monthly progress reports from the improvement board.

This comes after the council panel agreed to oversee the work and help ensure targets are met.

Council leader Stewart Young said: “This is where we collectively hold ourselves to account for the SEND improvements.

“And I think the discipline of formally reporting to this board and then ensuring that we are making the progress that we need to make is the right one.”

But health and education chiefs face an uphill struggle to earn the trust of parents and carers, some of whom have “lost faith and trust” in the system.

Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “It is going to be very difficult to try to move it forward because parents are still suspicious about them and their children not receiving the right sort of support.

“It is going to be hard to try and get them onside because there is a mind-set there ‘You lot don’t care.’”

But Mr Barton confirmed that parent carers had been invited to sit on each of the six work groups tasked with responding to the