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Improving information on childcare for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Authors: Alexandra Brady and Megan Jarvie

In the summer of 2018 we ran a project aiming to improve information provision on childcare for disabled children by local authorities. This included developing a self-assessment tool and running peer review workshops for local authority staff and parents in London and the Eastern region. This report summarises the key learning from the work.

Some of the key points that parents of disabled children raised about the most important things to be considered when providing information were:

  • They are often time poor and sleep deprived, meaning that it is even more important that information is easy to find and understand
  • They will often have significant concerns about leaving their child as result of more complex care and health needs
  • They want to be able to access a lot of information about childcare settings, particularly around experience and skills in working with SEND, in order to know whether they are likely to be meet their child’s needs
  • Location and accessibility of settings are particularly important, for example, how easy it is to park nearby

These priorities helped to inform the peer review of information offers. Some of the key learning points from the peer review process were around:

  • User testing: Participants found that there was a lot to learn from watching how parents navigated their website
  • Optimising search engine results: Most parents started from a Google search but local authority webpages were often not the top search results
  • Ease of navigation and filtering: Parents liked the ability to filter directory search results, but sometimes struggled to find their way between different parts of the website. They also favoured use of symbols and clear formatting to make it easy to find information.
  • Information on childcare providers: In depth information was valued by parents, but local authority staff sometimes struggled to get in depth and up to date information from childcare providers
  • Information on financial support and rights: Most local authorities are providing comprehensive information on the childcare locally, but some parents struggled to find information on help with paying for childcare for children with SENDs, their rights around childcare and the obligation on childcare providers
  • Language: There were still some instances of the language used being hard for parents to understand, most common examples were ‘local offer’, ‘settings’ and ‘providers’

Many of the improvements identified by local authorities linked to these areas and included:

  • Better integration between mainstream and SEND information, particularly around funding and help with paying for childcare
  • Regular reviews and testing with parents
  • Working more closely with other teams across the local authority to increase signposting
  • Reviewing the search functions and formatting of childcare directory
  • Reviewing tags and meta data to improve search results
  • Reviewing language used to make sure it is free of jargon