Following the April meeting of the Suffolk SEND Programme Board, which is the group that oversees the implementation of the Suffolk SEND Strategy and Statement of Action, we are providing a progress update on the first two sections of the action plans. These are about the Local Offer Information and improving the SEND Journey for children, young people and their families.
Developing the Local Offer Website
Although our online data shows us that many more people are now using the Local Offer website, we know from surveys of parents, carers and young people last year that there are still too many people who are not aware of the Local Offer website or cannot find the information that they need when they use it. To increase the number of people who know about the site we have been working on a campaign to increase awareness of the Local Offer, this will include putting posters in all the places that families are likely to visit, such as doctors surgeries, children’s centres and schools, and using social media to let people know about the local offer. To help people with using the site, and for those without online access, we have put in place a telephone helpline and a webchat and these will be publicised through the campaign. We have also worked with parent/carer representatives to improve the information on some of the landing pages on the Local offer. We still have further work to do to make the information on the site better and this will continue over the next year. Finally, we have added a feature that means anyone using the website can give us feedback on how to make it better, and we will use this in our ongoing improvement plan.
Improving the SEND Journey for Children, Young People and their Families
Improving the experience for children, young people and families is one of the biggest challenges that we have faced. This is because there are so many different people and organisations involved in making things work well, and if one part of this goes wrong it can have a big impact on the whole experience. It is also the area that we needed to make the biggest changes and some of these are taking longer to bring in operation than we had hoped. When we asked families what they wanted from their SEND Journey there was a strong message about people wanting a key worker – someone who could understand their case and make their journey more straightforward. We agreed that this was important and committed to introducing key-working. To do this we have had to completely redesign the SEN Service at Suffolk CC. This has now been completed and since April 1st we now have new Family Services Teams of Case Co-ordinators in place. These have replaced the previous Special Needs Officers (SNO). There are seven of these teams who will each work within one part of Suffolk. Some SNOs have become case co-ordinators, but we also have new staff, and several vacancies, as the teams are larger than previously so that each caseworker has a smaller caseload. Currently we are making sure that all children and young people with an EHCP has an allocated case-worker and that families know about these changes if their caseworker is a different person from their SNO. It will take us a few months for us to fill the remaining vacancies and get the new teams fully established and working well. We have made these changes as we know that there are still too many families who are not being well supported by our services and we are sorry that we continue to have some families who are receiving a poor service. This was highlighted to us again in the recent feedback gathered by SPCN from a sample of the families who had been involved with our services over the last few months. Thank you to those people who took the time to share their views. The feedback from this will help us to understand how our new services need to work in a different way in the future and the training we need to provide for our new teams.
We have also been trialling a new online system for families wanting to apply for a plan – the EHC Hub. This will improve the information available to families throughout the assessment process and provide a more transparent view for everyone involved. We now have around 40 families involved in this trial – and we are very grateful to them for their help with this, as there are always glitches with new IT systems, so for some we know it will not have gone smoothly. We are hoping that during the summer all the remaining snags will have been resolved and we will be able to introduce this system across Suffolk.
The recent feedback from families through SPCN also tells us that delays in assessment are often a significant frustration for them and hold up the process of getting a plan, or don’t happen at all. We are working across education, health and care to develop our plans for the introduction of Assessment Centres which can bring together practitioners from across these disciplines and make the assessment process swifter and more comprehensive. We expect the first children to benefit from the new assessment centres during the autumn. Our redesign of services has also enabled us to establish a new team who will be responsible for assessment and progress led by a new SEND Manager for Assessment and Progress. She will join the team in May and lead the development of the assessment centres as well as focusing on improving the annual review process for families.
The SEND Programme Board