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Guest blog – Jenny Coles: The ‘can do’ attitude of Children’s Services

Jenny Coles

Guest blogpost written by Jenny Coles, Chair of IMPOWER High Needs Delivery Advisory Board

I recently had the pleasure of hosting an IMPOWER Shared Learning Event which focused on early intervention in SEND and improving outcomes for children in care.

Representatives from 20 local areas came together to hear three case studies of how local areas were striving to have a positive impact in these areas, together with their local partners. The focus for the event was on practical solutions – things that local areas could implement without waiting for national reviews or policy changes. This ‘can do’ attitude was fully evident in both the examples shared and the discussion that followed each.

First, Pauline Melvin OBE shared Derby City Council’s experience of establishing a new ‘SEND Advice Line’ to support SENCOs to navigate the local offer, and find early intervention support that can be accessed more quickly without the need to wait for an education health and care plan (EHCP) needs assessment. In a short space of time, they have provided support to more than 90% of schools in Derby. Pauline will be sharing more about this soon via the IMPOWER blog.

Next, we heard from Marion Ingram at Hertfordshire County Council, Heather Sandy from Lincolnshire County Council and Phil Watson from Norfolk County Council on how they had worked to improve outcomes for children in care. Each authority had used IMPOWER’s Valuing Care approach, which supports parents and professionals to change the conversation about children and young people in care, presenting wider opportunities and allowing more strategic management of capacity within a local authority area. Each of the three areas shared powerful examples of how their work had made a difference for children and young people, and improved their longer-term life chances. Expect a jointly written blog from these three areas soon.

Some common themes emerged for me from this event:

  • Both case studies highlighted how local areas can use data and intelligence effectively – both to effectively target their support and work, and crucially to demonstrate and celebrate the impact of initial pilots and give confidence to scale up. In my experience this is critical to sustain momentum when delivering change at the frontline.
  • Early help and early support remains a crucial focus and there are things that local areas can do now to shift the focus towards earlier identification of need, preventing need from escalating. We don’t need to wait for central policy change and, if and when that comes, the hard work will still be the change delivery, and
  • The importance of taking a long-term view which takes into account strengths and of avoiding a sole focus on individual episodes of behaviour and risk. Too often services view children and young people only at their most ‘problematic’ and this leads to decision making that is focused on managing a situation, rather than helping children and young people to achieve and thrive.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all representatives who joined this inspiring and helpful session – I look forward to the next event. If you would like to participate in future IMPOWER Shared Learning Events, please contact the team at IMPOWER.

Written by

Jenny Coles



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