Improving our service for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and predicting future demand

Buckinghamshire County Council’s Business Intelligence, Insight and Improvement team have worked collaboratively with the council’s SEND service to develop a complex predictive model to forecast demand and cost, and redesign the 20 week Education, Health and Care plan process to reduce delays and increase quality.

The challenge:
The number of children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for SEND in Buckinghamshire has been increasing annually since 2014, and the rate per 100,000 population in the county is significantly higher than in similar areas, the South East and nationally. If this rate of increase continues, this will create a significant operational and cost pressure for the Council.  In addition, the number of EHCPs completed within the 20 week statutory deadline has decreased.

The solution:
Working collaboratively with the SEND service, the Business Intelligence & Insight team developed a complex predictive model to forecast expected demand and cost over a future 5 or 10 year period. The model is built around a Markov Cohort Simulation, which supports forecasting over long periods using small cohorts, allowing detail around all need types, referral sources and placements to be considered. Within the model it is possible for multiple scenarios to be layered, thus enabling the Council to understand the impact of potential changes to the service or processes.

Alongside the model, the Corporate Business Improvement Team mapped the full end-to-end customer journey through the 20 week statutory process to identify opportunities for process improvement. Representatives from each stakeholder group redesigned the end-to-end process to alleviate the identified issues and ensure the child / young person is at the centre.

The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable):
The model has informed the work of the transformation programme within Children’s Services, and the Business Intelligence & Insight team have worked closely with operational colleagues to test and control for a range of scenarios. The model results have been used to identify pressures and set targets for the SEND service, which will result in better outcomes for children whose needs are met at a lower threshold, will reduce the operational pressure and will also alleviate the future financial pressure for the Council.

Improvements to the process are underway to further ensure better outcomes for children are sought at the point of need. There are 80 settings across Buckinghamshire that are piloting the redesigned process with a multi-agency team of professionals within the setting. This ensures the relevant support is available prior to requesting a plan and outcomes are collaboratively agreed.

How is the new approach being sustained?:
The output from the model has been used to inform target setting for the SEND service, against which there is on-going performance reporting. The model will be updated with the latest year’s data when available. The Corporate Business Improvement Team meets regularly with the SEND Service to monitor progress of the multi-agency pilot and improvements to the EHCP 20 week process. The pilot will imminently be reviewed by all key stakeholders to identify lessons learned to date, before any adjustments are made and the approach is rolled-out further.

Lessons learned:
The model was developed by the Business Intelligence and Insight team working collaboratively with key stakeholders across the Council from the outset. This approach was essential to ensure that the model met business needs and created the buy-in necessary to ensure that the resultant product was utilised. This partnership approach can be replicated across other areas of the business.

Using a Business Improvement tool that places the child at the centre of service design ensures focus starts with and remains with the child. Additionally, it is important to understand the story behind the baseline performance prior to any improvements, and then monitor performance going forward against timelines for implementation.

Contact: Hannah Clements, Corporate Business Improvement Officer
[email protected]