In addition to making savings the Council sought ways to improve children’s independence through alternative transport options. The majority of transport provided by Wirral Council is mini buses and taxis with very few single occupancy taxi journeys. The project had to marry together the two goals of financial savings and better outcomes.
iMPOWER’s role was to explore what had caused the high demand on SEND transport; this included benchmarking numbers in receipt of transport, numbers statemented and financial data; use of a Value Modes survey to inform engagement with parents and carers; engagement with schools and key stakeholders; provision of recommendations, implementation plans and early implementation documentation.
Although the Wirral had been very effective at reducing SEND transport unit costs, and there had been some work planned regarding demand there had been little work to date on the causes of demand and how this could be reduced. Our role was to explore this demand and provide insight into the current cohort of parent/carers whose children are in receipt of transport.
Effective Stakeholder Engagement
Our recommendations were based on knowledge gained from working with key stakeholders including: the Integrated Transport Unit, other services within the Council, headteachers, the voluntary sector, as well as parents and carers. This involved a combination of one-to-one meetings, focus groups and attending pre-existing forums, such as the special educational Heads forum.
Using value modes, we surveyed 31% of parents/carers of children in receipt of transport and held focus groups involving some of these. The insight gained highlighted that although parents were very satisfied with the SEND transport service, their aspirations for their child to be more independent were not being met. We also tested with parents and carers which alternatives to current transport provision they would be interested in pursuing. This enabled us to make recommendations based on evidence.
We met regularly with the client to discuss progress and report on findings. As a result we were able to coproduce a report and deliverables that would be both beneficial for the client and implementable.
As a result of the review, the client has gained significant insight into the causes of demand and how that demand can be better managed and reduced. They have also obtained a better understanding of parents’ and carers’ perceptions and expectations of the Council and partners.
We provided clear recommendations and implementation plans for how the Council could achieve savings of up to £320k pa. These recommendations focussed on changing how they deliver SEND transport, leading to greater parental choice and improved independence outcomes for children and young people. We also made recommendations for addressing the remaining savings gap.
iMPOWER is a values led consultancy dedicated to the reform of the public sector.