On Tuesday we were delighted to host more than 35 attendees from 12 local authorities at our first Shared Learning Event about children with special additional needs and disabilities (SEND). This focused on the key challenges facing local areas and families, and the role that our pioneering Valuing SEND approach can play in achieving a more inclusive and financially sustainable SEND system.
Our meeting coincided with the publication this week of the State of Local Government Finance Report by the LGiU (the Local Government Information Unit). This showed that 97% of councils plan to raise council tax this year, and that three quarters of councils have no confidence in the sustainability of local government finance. Nowhere is the challenge of influencing systems to deliver better outcomes and achieve financial sustainability felt more keenly than by those working to support children with SEND. Most local authorities are overspending on their High Needs Block budgets; this week the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) announced ongoing talks with 32 councils, to challenge the robustness of their deficit recovery plans.
Under this considerable cloud it was fantastic to see some genuine rays of hope at Tuesday’s event. There was a clear consensus around the potential for the Valuing SEND approach to reframe the SEND system – and drive greater focus on needs, outcomes and value. Valuing SEND centres on the use of a tool which allows a better understanding and quantification of the holistic needs of children, and enables professionals and families to provide tailored support. Regular use of the tool allows changes in needs over time to be dynamically tracked, in order to inform evaluation of support provided at a child, school or local authority level.
Attendees at the meeting (including local authority officers, school leaders, health colleagues and parents) heard how three innovative authorities – Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Norfolk – have worked alongside IMPOWER to develop and trial the Valuing SEND approach with local education settings and families. Three themes stood out on the role of Valuing SEND in delivering a more inclusive and sustainable SEND system:
- Shifting focus of conversations from provision to needs: Discussion and insight from the trials in Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Oxfordshire show how Valuing SEND is reframing discussions around support for children – from a focus on provision and deficits, to a more granular understanding of needs and how to meet them as early as possible. Attendees also saw the potential for aggregation of data at a setting, locality or local authority level to enable better planning and delivery of support – and meaningful evaluation of the intervention delivered.
- Influencing culture and behaviour at the frontline: There was consensus on the importance of changing culture and relationships at the frontline to meeting the challenges posed. Insight from the trials demonstrate how Valuing SEND can prime those working with children to make decisions based on needs, strengths and long-term outcomes, with a focus on the right support at the right time.
- Impacting outcomes, demand and cost across the child’s journey: Early case studies from the trials show the potential for Valuing SEND to impact outcomes and demand for specialist support at different stages in the child’s journey – whether this is supporting reintegration of children into mainstream settings to improve long term outcomes, or influencing practice and decision making within mainstream settings at an early stage. There is also clear consensus on the potential for this approach to replace and/ or improve existing approaches to assessment, planning and review (e.g. EHC plans and reviews).
This work is demonstrating that local areas can be bolder in introducing new approaches to supporting children with SEND. To find out more, please contact us.