Leeds City Council were one of the first local authorities to transform their Local Offer with the online platform MyLocalOffer developed by Kirklees Council-owned development company, LookingLocal.
MyLocalOffer was developed in response to the Children and Families Act 2014 that stipulated that every local authority had to deliver a Local Offer that would provide a comprehensive source of information and local services for children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).
Most recently Leeds City Council have introduced a new directory feature to their current version of MyLocalOffer. The smart directory enables Leeds City Council to reduce necessary content management of resources for the website. The platform avoids the need for the council's Best Practice Development Team within the Complex Needs Service to have to manually source external content, instead the directory within MyLocalOffer automatically sources content from around the web and presents to this to the team so they simply need to approve it as trusted/relevant before it is made available to end users.
As well as drawing in resources from relevant websites, the directory has also been developed to take into consideration those organisations that may only have a presence on social media. The directory will search for relevant information on sites such as Facebook and Meetup to find relevant groups, services and forums. The information from these social media sites is presented within the Local Offer website without users needing specific social media logins to access the information.
This solution makes best use of the web; drawing in from social media ensures that no organisation, service or support group is left out of the Local Offer. It helps users to find community groups and local services that can help them in the real-world as well as offering online advice. This ability to unlock community assets delivers tangible value to both user and council alike.
As well as vastly improving the lives of families and carers of children with SEND, having a comprehensive Local Offer enables families to self-serve at a time that is convenient for them and also frees up the Best Practice Development Team - with less time spent on managing the website or answering frequently asked questions that can be found via the Local Offer, the team can put their efforts into other areas of service improvement.
Kate Brooks, Children’s Services at Leeds City Council commented;
"The Leeds Local Offer was developed to be a ‘living place’ – a website that supports a search facility that is dynamic, drawing information from multiple sources providing an intelligent, capable, relevant response to enquiry. Now in its second edition, the Leeds Local Offer includes whitelisting functionality, a flexible taxonomy structure, clean visual graphics and the capacity to manage a considerable amount of specialist content.”
Leeds City Council worked collaboratively with young people, parents and carers, SEND teams, partner and stakeholder groups, providing demonstrations of the Local Offer, inviting feedback about its content, presentation and accessibility, and using this feedback to inform design throughout the year. At each stage of the design process the LookingLocal team took the feedback and responded by improving the site to meet the needs of the end users.
“What we appreciate most about working with the team at LookingLocal is their ability to meet our developing brief within the environment of the public sector.", commented Brooks.