A PLAN to put a vital council service out to tender was backed by members of Thurrock Council’s cabinet on Wednesday evening.

Cllr Bukky Okunade – portfolio holder for children’s services – told the meeting: “The Parent Partnership service is a statutory service that functions primarily to provide neutral and factual support on the special educational needs system.”

She said it helps children, their parents and young people play an active and informed role in their education and care.

Cllr Okunade explained that although funded by councils, these partnerships are run either at arm’s length or by a voluntary organisation to ensure children, their parents and young people have confidence in them.

In Thurrock it has been provided successfully over the past few months through a short-term contract with a voluntary sector body and, she said, there had been a recent Community Right to Challenge – which, had it been successful would have lead to the council putting the service out to tender.

She said: “Following a thorough examination of the Community Right to Challenge, the outcome of this process was to reject this expression of interest based on the information provided by the applicant.

“However, regardless of the outcome of this particular Community Right to Challenge, it is proposed that the service is put out to full competitive tender.

“Parent Partnership services remain a key component of the new SEND (Special Educational Needs or Disabilities) system introduced from 1 September 2014 which brings in the new Education Health and Care plans.

“By going to the market it will allow Thurrock to have a secure long-term, high-quality service set out in a clear service specification with the financial benefits of accessing a range of potential providers through the competitive process.”

Cllr Okunade said the paper was brought to cabinet because it involved the first Community Right to Challenge in the borough.