Servelec’s Tony Baxter discusses how robust yet adaptable case management software can address some of the common but critical challenges local authorities face when it comes to Education, Health and Care Plans…
The latest Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report, has highlighted an alarming number of complaints about the way our local authorities handle special educational needs.
The new report, ‘Not going to plan?’ looked at the common problems the Ombudsman is finding when investigating parents’ concerns, and found that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are increasingly being failed by the system.
The report provided an insight into some of the most common challenges local authorities across the country are having with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP.)
Let’s look at the numbers
The Ombudsman is now investigating more complaints than it has ever done before. In 2018-19 it received 45% more complaints and carried out 80% more detailed investigations about EHCPs than in 2016-17.
The report lists the serious problems in the current system; severe delays, poor planning and anticipation of needs, poor communication and preparation for meetings, inadequate partnership working, and a lack of oversight from senior managers, and Michael King, Local Government Ombudsman, stated that a particularly concerning development over the last two years has been councils “putting up additional barriers to services in efforts to ration scarce resources”.
But what is meant by additional barriers, and how can we break them down?
Does tech have the answer?
An objective high on the list for local authorities, is becoming much more efficient with their staff. Having a clear view of each child’s needs, and their family’s/support networks, will always make for better and faster, yet more accurate and appropriate decision-making. That holistic overview of all local authority interactions with children, young people and families, provides the insight needed to make key decisions successfully, resulting in much more positive outcomes for children and young people, while also saving time and money.
Specialist education management software is helping local authorities to provide the right support for schools and families, and can also help to make significant financial savings.
We are finding that our own SEN support software is helping local authorities handle the complex provisions for children with special educational needs – by supporting them in managing their statutory assessments and annual review processes.
All professionals with a login can contribute information, so it makes it easier and quicker to compile a child’s EHCP within the statutory timeframe. Local authorities can then view all relevant information in one place. Workflow management facilities also allow procedures to be tracked and followed by workers, which helps maintain compliance with established timescales. The software also enables workers and management to remain aware of where each child is in the process and avoid running over deadlines.
Adaptability is crucial
Every local authority approaches the 20-week statutory assessment process differently, so having education management software that is adaptable, is essential. Every single one of the 50+ local authorities that use our SEN software follows a different process and uses different terminology, but still adheres to the code of practice. A local authority needs technology that is robust, yet flexible, and it must have the ability to adapt to unique ways of working, because these ways will be locally important. Our Professional Services team brings experiences from over 20 years of SEN implementations, enabling councils to benefit from shared experiences. In addition, we ensure that knowledge of how to adapt the system so that when processes evolve and change, the council can adapt the system without needing to involve IT or us as the supplier..
Using existing systems in place at the council, such as integrating with MS Office, helps you make sure all of the relevant stakeholders that are involved with the assessment process are communicated with in a timely fashion, using customisable outputs that are tailored to suit the preferences of the local authority in question.
Urgency to improve
The report has helped to shine a spotlight on the problems with the current SEND system, and places more urgency on the need to improve. The overall goal of education management software such as Synergy, including specialist SEN support, is to provide a clear view of each child’s needs for better decision-making, to enable joined-up and accurate information, to save time and money, and, most importantly to provide a better service and achieve more positive outcomes. The technology is there to streamline current processes, and to help local government support children with special educational needs and disabilities.