An innovative approach to delivering the “Local Offer” of services and information for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has been rolled out by Worcestershire County Council, working with public sector-owned technology developer, LookingLocal.
In addition to providing advice about SEND-related services and advice maintained by Worcestershire County Council , LookingLocal’s MyLocalOffer platform alsoincorporates a search capability that pulls in a wealth of content – much of it in multimedia form - beyond the council’s website, gaining insight from other organisations and communities and providing a much wider source of information and support, reflecting the complex needs of the SEND community.
The Children & Families Act 2014 required local authorities in England to deliver their Local Offer by making services and information accessible to parents and carers. LookingLocal achieves this by making MyLocalOffer available across a range of mobile platforms and devices - PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones - 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has received strong endorsement from local users in Worcestershire.
During a development session with the Kirklees team, parents said: “It’s brilliant. We can't believe how much has been achieved in such a short time.” As a group they are looking forward to working together to continue to develop and improve the site.
The County Council’s SEND team can curate their site by controlling and accrediting what content is offered by the Worcestershire Local Offer platform. Its search facility dynamically pulls in content from local voluntary, health and other support organizations, as well as global resources, based on criteria set by users. This cuts down on duplication and means that information is as up to date as possible.
If, for example, a user searches for “autism”' the results lists local and regional organisations that specialise in autism, together with autism-related information from the NHS, video content from YouTube, Facebook communities focused on autism, national and international autism support groups, and more. Content is available in video or audio form and resources, such as online forums and chatrooms, are also easily accessible and local online communities can be created.
The LookingLocal solution was attractive to Worcestershire County Council for a number of reasons: value for money, security, the ability to offer up-to-date, accurate listings from local partners without needing to manage content and a flexible approach to design that enables partners to customise and make changes in line with customer and organisational needs.
Councillor Liz Eyre, Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for children and families said: “Worcestershire had a comprehensive website of information and resources around SEND, but needed to respond to the requirements of the Local Offer. The approach allowed us to plug our website into the LookingLocal solution, add related NHS content and create a valuable tool informed by the needs of parents and young people.”
“The SEN Code of Practice is clear about the information that needs to be included in the Local Offer, and it was great to see that LookingLocal had designed a product with the code in mind; it really helped not to start with a blank canvas.
“Working with LookingLocal around the Local Offer has given us an opportunity to engage with specific customer groups, communicate with partners, schools and everyone involved at a local level. The partnership has resulted in increased engagement and a fuller understanding of what is available for children, young people and their families. This work will continue.”
LookingLocal Director, Guy Giles, said: “We are delighted that the MyLocalOffer solution is working so well for Worcestershire County Council. Working in close partnership meant that we could draw on their knowledge of local needs, take soundings from their stakeholders and ensure a flexible approach to product design. We have produced a Local Offer platform of which we are both very proud and our work with Worcestershire will inform the future development of MyLocalOffer.”
Other users of LookingLocal’s MyLocalOffer solution include Kirklees and Leeds Councils.