Feedback on the Local Offer 2014-2015

The information Cheshire East (iCE) directory, including the Cheshire East Local Offer for SEND, became live on 1st September 2014, as required by the Children and Families Act 2014. Information on how the Cheshire East Local Offer was co-produced can be found on the developing our Local Offer for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) page.

During the year to September 2015, we have gathered feedback, comments and suggestions from a number of sources, including:

  • the “Contact”, “Tell us what you think” and “Suggest a service” pages of the iCE directory
  • the “Leave feedback” button on iCE directory service records
  • the “Contact us” and “Rate this page” functions of the Cheshire East website
  • over the telephone during calls to the Family Information Service
  • from an online “Quick Quiz” organised by the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum
  • from a consultation carried out amongst recipients of support from children’s social care
  • in person at various events, including parent coffee mornings, Cheshire East Parent Carer Open Forums and steering group meetings, fun days and commissioned provider meetings.

If you would like to provide feedback on the Cheshire East Local Offer for SEND, see the “tell us what you think” page for further details. Thank you to everybody that has taken the time to do this to date. Your feedback is very important to us and helps to shape future development work in all areas. 

Below is a summary of the feedback that we have received, along with our response and actions.

Awareness of the Local Offer

You said:

  • "I have not seen, or heard of, the Local Offer”
  • “I couldn’t find the Local Offer”
  • “Not the easiest website to find, would be good if you could advertise more within charities”
  • “It would be good if parents were given information about the local offer as early as possible - part of the information from health visitors?"

Parent carer Quick Quiz July 2015 – 29 respondents: when asked if they had used the Local Offer, 41% of respondents said yes and 59% answered no. Of those that had not used the offer, the most common reason was because they hadn’t heard of it (50%).

Our actions:

  • A variety of publicity materials have been developed to raise awareness of the Local Offer. This includes leaflets explaining what the local offer is and where it can be found, along with pens, mouse mats, pull-up banners and wristbands (which have been particularly popular with young people!). The promotional materials have been distributed at various events and to key professionals working with families, such as Independent Supporters. 
  • Further materials are in development – this includes posters and slides (for display on screens in children’s centres; GP surgeries; hospitals etc.). We take on board the suggestions to work with charities and health professionals, and will strive to publicise the Local Offer via as many different routes as possible going forward.

Content of the Local Offer

You said:

  • "The content of these web pages is woefully lacking. Is there more information to be added very soon, or is this the extent of Cheshire East's Local Offer”
  • “I last looked at it about 8 months ago and found it a little vague. This was in the early days so I hope it is now more valid”.

Our actions:

  • The first comment was received shortly after the Local Offer went live. Since then, we employed a temporary web editor and over 1000 service records have been added and/or enhanced, and allocated to relevant search categories.
  • In addition, several pages and links for further information have been added.

You said:

"Can be improved. Not a lot for the older young person/adult. Transport for YP needed when parent/carer works full time"

Our actions:

  • In line with the wishes of local residents, separate “moving into adult life” categories are available within Live Well and the Local Offer. These categories are dedicated to services and information for young people aged 14 years+, in line with the concept of preparing for adulthood at the earliest opportunity. We acknowledge that the information available in these categories was limited initially and did not reflect the opportunities available locally.  Since the directory was launched, we have added information on local colleges, employment and training providers and opportunities, support services, housing information and a large number of social activities.
  • We recognise that these categories still require further development, including information relating to ‘getting around’. As a result, we have asked several individuals working in this area to review the content and to suggest further services and information for inclusion. This additional content will be added throughout the rest of this year. We would welcome any further suggestions from local residents.

You said:

"More services accessible outside office working hours."

Our actions:

  • We ask providers to offer details of their opening/service delivery times as part of their service information. This information is useful for residents wishing to access a service, but also provides valuable information for professionals involved in commissioning provision which fits local residents’ needs. Due to the ability to create reports from our directory system, all information within the Local Offer can be easily provided to and shared with commissioners. When our commissioners evaluate and decide on future commissioning intentions they look at the broad offer including accessibility of services. We look to make the most efficient and effective use of resources available to the Council and partners.

You said:

"I am struggling to find an advocacy service for my young person."

Our actions:

  • Cheshire East Council commissions an advocacy service for children and young people from The Children’s Society. An entry for this advocacy service has now been added.
  • Several specialist advocacy services are also available within Cheshire East, and are described in the directory. 

You said:

As part of engagement work conducted by children’s social care, families of children with disabilities were asked about the services that they would like to see developed across education, health and care. Responses included the following:

  • Education:  "Better autism training/understanding; after school and holiday provision"
  • Care: "Social skills opportunities; better respite services; distinction between services for children with additional needs/disabilities and those for child protection, along with specific training"
  • Health: "Increased use of patient passports; improved autism services"

Our actions:
The list of suggestions was shared with commissioners and professionals working in education, health and care, in order to be considered as part of future development plans. Work is already underway in some related areas, for example:

  • This year, the local authority and a number of voluntary and community groups worked collaboratively to produce a programme of summer holiday activities for disabled young people
  • The children’s commissioning manager for Cheshire East Council has been working closely with the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum to conduct engagement exercises around short breaks and respite provision. This will feed into a refresh of the short breaks statement, influence future commissioning intentions and guide innovative solutions to gaps that are proving difficult to overcome.
  • External expertise has been brought in to review practice and processes in children’s social care for children with disabilities and their families.
  • NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is looking to improve the health and wellbeing of people living with autism and ADHD, and has arranged a number of listening events to engage with residents and professionals on this.

Navigating the Local Offer

You said:

  • "When we search for the name of our service, it is not the first result”
  • “It is great in theory, but less so in practice. The search function is sometimes ‘clonky’ - it can be difficult to find the services you are looking for if you don't know the 'keywords' that people use – e.g. if you are looking for activities it wouldn't occur to you to search for 'short breaks'! If you search for a specific thing it doesn't seem to come up as the top result - all these things can be so off putting that you end up going elsewhere”
  • “It needs to be more parent friendly. It was difficult to navigate

Our actions:
We have taken a number of steps to improve the search functionality of our directory and user experience:

  • The directory has undergone a number of upgrades, which have included several improvements to search performance.
  • In addition, tabs have been added to separate service records and information pages. Separating the information pages means that services being searched for come up first in the list.
  • In addition, we have worked with a number of other local authorities to develop a thesaurus of search terms. This means that if an individual searches for a particular phrase e.g. “autism”, the search will also return results for related terms such as “Autistic”, “ASD” etc. This is still in development and will be added to the directory as soon it is available. 
  • 10 months after the directory was launched, we reviewed the subcategories to check that they were fit for purpose. As a result, further categories were added (e.g. a “bereavement” category was added under Advice and Support). In addition, the names of some subcategories were felt to be too ambiguous and were changed for clarity (e.g. “educational support”).
  • Our data shows that a large proportion of people now access the Cheshire East website via mobile devices. It was therefore important to ensure that users could access the Local Offer easily via a mobile device. A fully mobile responsive design was added to the directory earlier this year.
  • Following the upgrades to the directory, we are planning to carry out user testing with local residents over the next year.

You said:

  • "Difficult to find specific answers - just points to existing websites”
  • “I think it is well set out and lots more on it than I thought. Easy to use very surprised. Great how you can go straight to the services website to find out more information”.
  • “You need your answers quickly when you are a carer you don’t have all day researching

Our actions:

  • We include links to websites for further information wherever possible and appropriate. We are also working with service providers in order to offer valued detailed information for individual services, e.g. eligibility criteria; service delivery areas; service capacity etc., within the directory itself, as requested above. We will continue to work with providers to enhance the available information.
  • We are also working to increase the information that can be found through the directory by creating new information pages, updating existing information on webpages and linking information wherever possible.

You said:

"Yes it's a list of all services but how to access the services is nowhere near as simple"

Our actions:

  • We recognise how important it is for both families and professionals to have clear information on accessing services. We ask providers to describe how their service can be accessed, including details of referral methods and waiting lists (if appropriate), as part of their service information. This is in place for many services. For example, we worked very closely with health commissioners and providers to ensure that this information was available for health services. We will continue to work with service providers to ensure that this information is available for as many services as possible.

You said:

"No text to speech"

Our actions:

  • We had reviewed BrowseAloud and Readspeaker on www.cheshireeast.gov.uk, but removed them as they were not used. Most mobile devices include text to speech options and we have been advised that most people who require this functionality have a system customised to meet their needs.  We will re-assess the requirement and the budgetary implications.

Commenting on the Local Offer

You said:

"I love the idea that users can leave feedback on services, however I would like to know what safeguards are in place as anything to do with children, especially children where you often have to fight for them, can be so emotive!!"

Our actions:

  • Receiving feedback on the quality of local services is very important, as it ensures that the services that are commissioned and provided meet the expected quality standards of commissioners and the needs of our local residents. We are aware of potential sensitive issues relating to leaving feedback. As a result, submitted feedback is only ever published in an anonymous format (as seen on this page). In line with the SEND Code of Practice, vexatious or abusive comments will not be published.

Individual service information

You said:

"Several organisations have contacted us to update or change information for existing service records, for example where addresses or contact names have changed, or where services are no longer operating."

Our actions:

  • Changes to records are made as appropriate. The date on which a service record was last updated is shown at the bottom of the page. We want visitors to the directory to feel confident that the information is accurate and up-to-date. Individuals working with providers to update record details have received positive feedback.

Third party log-in requests: 

  • As part of the functions of our directory, service providers are able to update their own service information via individual log-ins. This will help to sustain the directory, and ensure that information remains accurate and current. Several providers have requested a log-in to date.
  • Log-ins have not yet been distributed to external services. We are currently developing training materials to help providers with updating their service information, and have so far tested these materials and the log-in function with a small number of internal local authority services. Over the next year, we plan to roll out log-in details and accompanying support materials to as many service providers as possible. 

Service suggestions and national organisations:

  • During the initial development of our Local Offer, we focused primarily on adding services that were available within Cheshire East. Since then, many organisations expressed an interest in being included in the  directory and our Local Offer for SEND and have used the “suggest a service” function to provide details of their own services. This includes a large number of services that either operate nationally or are based outside of Cheshire East.
  • The legislation relating to the Local Offer for SEND states that it should include relevant regional and national specialist provision and we do include information on national helplines, websites etc. 
  • We have a page that lists details of specialist education provision used by Cheshire East Council within and outside of the area, along with links for further information.
  • We are keen to balance information on national organisations with information on local services in order to provide the best user experience for Cheshire East residents.

We would appreciate the views of local residents on this matter – how much information do you find useful about national services or services outside of Cheshire East? Tell us what you think!