The Department for Education recently published some "user experience" research into the SEND reforms to help local areas with gathering family feedback. Ask Research produced a report, Mapping user experiences of the Education, Health and Care process. They have also produced a website to help improve implementation. Please do visit it.
Amy Skipp, who co-authored the report, has written an exclusive article for us about her research, which will help if you haven't yet had time to read it in detail.
Developing services with family feedback by Amy Skipp
The main aim of the ‘user journey mapping’ project was to see how local authorities could best collect feedback from parents and young people to feed into their local service development. Four LAs agreed to work with us. These areas were randomly selected so we don’t know how much they reflect the situation across the whole country. But we had a range of feedback from parents about what they did and did not like about their local EHC process.
We asked parents and young people how satisfied they were with the services in their area, at the different stages of the EHC assessment and planning process.
They spoke highly of the help they got from individual staff and they liked the new approach being focused on the child and building up an ‘all-round’ picture of them and their needs. In some cases though when we asked about the detail of the process they had been through some of the practice wasn’t compliant with the SEND Code of Practice, including problems getting children’s needs identified early, limited input from health professionals, or panel decisions not being clear.
We have reported what we learnt from consulting parents and using this to improve local support and services. We recommend that:
When gathering their own feedback from local families, local authorities should be able to show that:
- this is more than a ‘tick box exercise’;
- they have consulted with a wide range of families and not just the established parent forums;
- they have been able to generate quality feedback that results in actionable changes to practice; and
- they are reflecting back changes they are making (such as with a ‘you said, we did’ format).
We found that parents were not very well informed about the reforms and the new approach. So asking how satisfied they were with the service they got was not the same as asking them how good the service they got was. It’s interesting to see that soon Ofsted will be looking for evidence of services working with and getting input from families (Ofsted SEND inspection Framework pages 8-9) [Editor note: Read SNJ's Guide to the SEND Inspections here]
We found a high level of need for support for families going through the EHC process. They reported benefitting from clear information on where to go for help and advice and what the EHC process involves. Some said they were struggling with understanding the process, to come to terms with their child’s needs (especially where the process had led to a new diagnosis) and manage this on top of their other everyday responsibilities.
So the support they reported needing was not just due to the change in system – many of these families were looking for informed, independent advice on a wide range of issues (including housing, parenting, financial support, respite, etc).
Parents wanted more help and information and in particular someone to talk to about their situation. Even when very good support was being provided by the SEN team some parents still wanted the advice of someone independent from the process – as a check that what they were being told and understanding was right and to get the perspective of someone who had seen other parents go through the process. There was seen as benefit to this being someone who was ‘not part of the local authority’.
Implementing the Reforms
There was a strong sense that the new approach is still quite new and it’s taking time for the new processes and ways of working and everyone’s understanding to ‘bed in’. This is a big change, requiring new approaches and new ways to work.
We worked through the family feedback with services and came up with some really quick and easy ‘wins’ for them to implement, such as:
- Getting parent emails to stay in touch and get their feedback
- Having a link to the Local Offer and local support services on all communications with parents
- Asking parents for feedback on letters and information for parents
- Holding parents events to explain the process and support available and have the chance for parents and practitioners to meet
- some staff working in the EHC process didn’t get much chance to speak to parents and young people so we produced videos of some of the things parents told us and about what they did and didn’t like about their experience. Staff told us these would be useful in their multiagency training.
- service providers wanted to be able to measure their service development and so we developed checklists for them to rate their service against what parents told us they wanted.
EHCP Journeys website
We’ve called our new website ehcpjourneys.com because this is a journey for everyone involved. What we saw was that there was real benefit in everyone learning from everyone else. There are some excellent resources, advice and support networks out there, but not everyone knows about them and so they’re not making the best use of them.
Why should LAs need to learn about how to collect feedback when we’ve already done it? Why would LAs start developing all their information from scratch when there are already really good examples out there? We hope that the new site will help share good practice and that practitioners can reflect on their practice, what parents think of it, and what other services are doing to offer the best support possible to families of children and young people with SEND in their area.
We hope you’ll tell us about your experiences and local practice so we can continue to improve the site.
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She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
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