Parents or carers of a child with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are no different from any other parent: they want the very best for their child, including in education. A combination of high demand, inadequate funding and flawed educational performance measures has resulted in a system that is not working well enough. Councils have had to be creative over the last few years to plug the huge SEND funding gaps. Central government investments have come nowhere near addressing the funding deficits that councils are facing in providing SEND services. As the Local Government Association has highlighted, the gap could grow to more than £800 million in 2019/20. Something needs to change.
Whilst the funding challenge has been raised nationally and continues to be a focus of lobbying with central government through the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Local Government Association, it is clear that money is not the only answer. Nearly £1 billion of additional funding has already been put into the sector through High Needs Block Funding, but demand for special school provision continues to grow, outcomes remain a challenge to prove, and overspends are common place across local authorities as a result. We believe, and have evidence to show, that this demand is not inevitable and can be changed with the right system engagement and interventions.
Through our Reframing SEND programme, we help councils to understand the demand for SEND services within their area and to understand the overall and individual costs. Working with councils, parents and carer groups, and service providers, we have proved that better outcomes can cost less as there are opportunities to maximise inclusion and independence while refocussing investment away from specialist support and towards early intervention. With our behavioural science expertise underpinned by data analytics, we have proven that SEND services can be more impactful and sustainable.
In analysing the data and evidence to understand what is really going on across the whole system and the elements that need to change, we developed the High Needs module of the IMPOWER INDEX. The module brings together over 40 data sets on SEND demand, spend, outcomes, provision and exclusion rates to paint a unique picture of system pressures.
IMPOWER’s approach goes beyond data analysis, recognising what is really needed to earn support for change across the system. We bring together expertise in SEND, broader children’s services, change management, system leadership and applied behavioural science.
We work with councils, schools, health partners and parents, using the insight generated from our unique demand analysis methodology. Achieving this change requires a different set of skills, tools and metrics. Our approach:
- Reframes the ambition for children with SEND through applying our EDGEWORK avoidable demand analysis toolkit, and uses this evidence to demonstrate the opportunities to support children differently and reduce demand on specialist provision.
- Works with frontline staff, holding up a mirror to current practice and behaviours through observations, facilitating case reviews with SEND officers and partners to develop agreement on what can be done, and securing support for change.
- Applies behavioural science to change behaviours and expectations, including training for staff in tried and tested methodologies.
- Uses demand analysis to facilitate key workshops across partners.
- Ensures that councils understand current and future trajectories for SEND demand, and the metrics needed to track the impact of interventions.
Our demand and cost modelling shows where investment could be reframed along the child’s journey to improve their outcomes, and what this adds up to across the council. Our behavioural trials have helped a number of councils to reduce demand and cost, and regain control and sustainability. In one local authority, we increased the independence of children with SEND while also reducing statutory spend by £500,000.
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