IMPOWER with Lincolnshire County Council

Change and Transformation in the Public Sector

Reframing High Needs and SEND support with Lincolnshire County Council

Local authorities throughout the country are struggling to meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) within existing budgets.

To put the scale of the problem into context, of England’s 151 upper-tier councils, 132 overspent their High Needs block – the grant that funds SEND support – in 2019-20.

Back in 2018, Lincolnshire County Council was heading in the same direction. It was facing rising costs around SEND support and growing demand for education, health and care plans (EHCPs) and specialist provision.

In too many cases, it was not clear whether EHCPs, which set out the support a child or young person with SEND should receive, or specialist schooling were actually in the best interests of the child. Could their needs have been met in mainstream schools? And yet they had become the default option and were regarded as a ‘golden ticket’.

Fundamental changes were required in order to develop a clearer understanding of children’s needs and the impact of the council’s spending on outcomes.

Lincolnshire needed to see a culture shift to ensure all partners – from practitioners to educators to families – had a shared vision of what ‘good’ really looks like.

Since then, the county council has been on a journey with IMPOWER that has taken it to the forefront of a pioneering approach that is reframing the way local authorities work.

IMPOWER has developed new tools and approaches in partnership with councils so that they have a deeper understanding of the most effective ways to support children and can target resources accordingly.

By embedding them in the council’s work practices – and those of its partners – the consultancy has enabled sustainable change. This has been made possible through the expertise of the IMPOWER team both in terms of subject knowledge and first-hand experience of working in local government.

Crucially, IMPOWER’s consultants have also played a frontline role in communicating the new approach and supporting everyone from teachers to early years providers to the Parent Carer Forum to play their part. Strong working relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders have laid the foundations for success. Both the client and its partners have been vocal in their praise for the sensitive and constructive way consultants have approached the project – especially important in an area as emotive as SEND.

The council is still on a transformational journey but the impact of changes to date are already clear. It has seen a forecasted £4.5m reduction in spend on High Needs if current trajectories continue and real improvements for individual children and their families.

While every other area of the East Midlands has seen requests for EHCPs remain the same or rise, Lincolnshire’s have fallen by 32%. There is now a common vision and far greater confidence that more children’s needs can be met in mainstream schools.

As one special school headteacher puts it: “The consultant’s work has had a huge impact – that golden ticket [of the EHCP] doesn’t seem to be quite as golden as it used to be.”

View the IMPOWER profile in the MCA Members Directory.