In this article
Since September 2014 every local authority has been required to publish information about services that they expect to be available in their area for children and young people from birth to 25 who have Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND) and also services outside of the area which they expect children and young people from their area will use. This is known as the “Local Offer”.
The Local Offer listing is a free resource for residents of the local authority; however, some authorities also publish links to the Local Offer listings of neighbouring authorities. Some of the services listed come from the local authority itself or the NHS, but others come from external organisations such as charities or businesses.
Who is the Local Offer for?
A Local Offer gives children and young people with SEND, and their families, information about what support services the local authority think will be available in their local area. Every local authority is responsible for writing a Local Offer and making sure it is available for everyone to see. You can find details of your local authority by clicking on this link and entering your postcode.
The Local Offer is primarily designed for use by parents and children and young people with SEND. However, it will also enable practitioners and professionals to see clearly what services are available in their local area and how and when they can be accessed.
The Local Offer should provide a comprehensive and accessible list which explains, in simple terms, the entitlements of children and parents and sets out how families can find, and fund, services for children and young people with SEND.
The Local Offer should be:
- Collaborative – Local authorities must involve parents, children and young people in developing and reviewing the Local Offer. They must also cooperate with those providing services.
- Accessible – The published Local Offer should be easy to understand, factual and jargon free. It should be structured in a way that relates to young people’s and parents’ needs, for example by broad age group or type of special educational provision. It should be well signposted and well publicised.
- Comprehensive – Parents and young people should know what support is expected to be available across education, health and social care from age 0 to 25 and how to access it. The Local Offer must include eligibility criteria for services where relevant and make it clear where to go for information, advice and support, as well as how to make complaints about provision or appeal against decisions.
- Up to date – When parents and young people access the Local Offer it is important that the information is up to date.
- Transparent – The Local Offer should be clear about how decisions are made and who is accountable and responsible for them.
Local Offer listing
All the services involved with the Local Offer have been asked to provide and maintain up-to-date information that can be easily accessed by the user. For example, information might include who the service will suit, opening hours, accessibility or costs.
The Local Offer also includes information on giving feedback and raising issues and concerns and making a complaint. It is therefore not simply a directory of information or a list of services available.
Service providers for children and young people with SEND are expected to offer:
- A service where the views of children or young people are heard and acted upon.
- Activities and planned outcomes.
- A safe environment that meets the needs of children or young people.
- A fit-for-purpose setting.
- Competent staff that are trained to meet the needs of the children or young people.
- Staff that are aware of safeguarding issues for children or young people and that have completed suitable training.
- Staff, including volunteers, who have Enhanced Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks.
Most local authorities require prospective services providers to complete an online application for consideration to be listed on the Local Offer.
They generally ask for information about:
- The organisation such as:
– Email address.
- The service or activity to be offered such as:
– A full description including any supporting information, for example images, posters, leaflets, application forms etc.
– Any referral/eligibility criteria to access the service or activity.
– How decisions are made about who is eligible for the service or activity.
– Address(es) of where people can visit or where activity takes place including multiple locations.
- Categories such as:
– Age ranges the service or activity is aimed at.
– Local Offer provision type.
– Offering services to.
– Local Offer needs level such as:
– Universal – Universal services are available to all children and young people and can be accessed without an assessment.
– Targeted – Targeted services are for children and young people who may need additional support to access services, or may need groups or services that are specifically designed to meet their needs. Some targeted provision can be accessed directly with or without an assessment.
– Specialist – Specialist services are for children and young people with severe and/or complex needs who are likely to require even more support than is available either through universal or targeted services. This service will require an assessment of need.
- Themes offered such as:
– Help and advice.
– Money advice.
– Preparing for adulthood.
– Social care.
– Travel and transport.
- How potential users can request more information / start using the service.
- The training the provider’s staff have regarding SEND.
- Disclosure and Barring Service checks for staff.
- Insurance information.
- Safeguarding policies and quality assurance procedures.
- Complaints policy, procedures and contact for service users.
From time to time Local Offer providers may be asked by their local authority to provide additional information about their service(s) and the SEND processes they are involved in. It is a statutory duty for this information to be provided and the person being asked must endeavour to cooperate as fully as possible.
If professionals require further information about the duty to provide information for the Local Offer, they can refer to the relevant legislation, regulations and guidance.
Local authorities and their partner bodies and agencies must cooperate with each other in the development and review of the Local Offer. This is essential so that the Local Offer provides a comprehensive, transparent and accessible picture of the range of services and support available to children, young people, families and parent/carers.
Local authorities have the right to remove services and activities from their Local Offer listing if there are complaints raised against it or it does not meet their standards. They usually review the provision on a regular basis to ensure it is up to date and providers can amend or remove information by contacting the local authority’s Local Offer team.
Contributing to the Local Offer
There will be many different types of services that children and young people may need, including support services in school and specialist health services. All schools must cooperate with the local authority for its development and review of the Local Offer.
They need to develop and publish a tailored Local Offer in partnership with parent/carers. It is important to include all stakeholders, especially parents and carers and the pupil voice participation, in all aspects of a school’s Local Offer development.
Education provision should include provision available in mainstream and special schools, and include details of independent or non-maintained special schools. It should outline information about local support services that are available to mainstream schools and other settings (for example, educational psychology, autism advisory services).
It should also include information about local arrangements for partnership working between schools to support children and young people with SEN, and arrangements for providing additional funding for children and young people with high levels of need.
Health provision should include information about healthcare provision for children and young people with SEN (such as, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy services), and mental health services.
It should also include health and care provision that might commonly be needed by children and young people with SEN, such as wheelchair services and community equipment. Portage, continence services, physiotherapy and provision for those with complex health needs should also be included.
Social care provision should include support for children and young people moving between social care services, from children to adult services, assistance to support independent living and details of the short breaks for disabled children, young people and their families, which local authorities have a duty to provide.
Local Offer examples
Local Offers may vary across different local authorities. Each local authority will choose to prioritise different types of support, advice and activities on offer, so each Local Offer will be unique. The Local Offer is detailed on the local authority’s website and in many cases the local authority will also publicise details on social media.
In the majority of cases Local Offers provide links to:
- Childcare and Early Years.
- Health and Social Care.
- Leisure and Transport.
- Money Matters.
- Youth and Preparing for Adulthood.
Here are some examples of the Local Offer from across the country:
Purpose of the Local Offer
The Local Offer puts all the information about education, health and care services, leisure activities and support groups in one place.
It has two main purposes:
- To provide clear, comprehensive and accessible information about the support and opportunities that are available.
- To make provision more responsive to local needs and aspirations.
The development of a Local Offer creates an opportunity for local authorities to highlight good practice and provision and identify what universal services are provided for disabled young people and those with SEN.
“The Local Offer should not simply be a directory of existing services. Its success depends as much upon full engagement with children, young people and their parents as on the information it contains. The process of developing the Local Offer will help local authorities and their health partners to improve provision.” SEND Code of Practice 4.3.
What are the benefits of a Local Offer?
The Local Offer was introduced to help improve the quality of information about local services and support for children and young people with SEND. It provides information for children and young people with SEND and their parents or carers in a single place. It shows families what they can expect from a range of local agencies including education and health and social care.
The Local Offer gives people the information they need to make informed choices about services they choose to use rather than local authorities allocating services to them.
Practitioners working to support children and young people with SEND can also find information and resources, including how to access extra support.
In short, the Local Offer brings together information and advice and fun and accessible activities, making it more straightforward for those who want to access the services.
It shows the variety of local organisations who provide different services and is a one-stop shop for supporting children and young people with SEND.
Who decides what is in the Local Offer?
The law says that every local authority must talk with children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities and their families to find out what sort of support and services they need. The Local Offer must be developed and reviewed in partnership with children and young people, parents and local services.
- Education – Support in early years, schools and colleges, including transport
- Health – Specialist clinics, support and advice for children and young people with medical needs
- Social care – Support for personal care and practical assistance, short breaks and personal budgets
- Transitions – Moving between phases of education and preparing for adulthood
- Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) – The statutory EHCP process explained, including applying for a plan, transfers and reviews
- Information, advice and support – Where to get impartial and confidential information, advice and support
- If there is any help available to pay for these services.
Children, young people and their families may also have ideas about what leisure activities and transportation should be available, and what services are needed to help young people move towards independence in adulthood.
The local authority will then decide what services to make available. Every local authority must get feedback on its Local Offer from young people and their families. They must show what feedback they have been given and say how they are going to make improvements to the Local Offer and services.
Statistics on the Local Offer
There have been some studies conducted on the implementation of the Local Offer since its introduction; below are a few of the findings.
The Family and Childcare Trust examined the Local Offer of every local authority in England to assess the quality of information provided about childcare.
They looked specifically at three areas:
- The provision of guidance, advice and brokerage for parents looking for childcare.
- The scope and quality of information about childcare in Local Offer directory listings.
- The provision of SEND guidance for early years and childcare providers.
They found that:
- Most local authorities, 91 per cent, provided information about free early education for two-, three- and four-year-olds in the Local Offer.
- Nearly three quarters, 68 per cent, provided more comprehensive guidance about accessing childcare outside of the free offer. Of these, 70 per cent provided guidance that focused only on early years provision rather than childcare for school age children.
- Three quarters of local authorities, 74 per cent, had a directory of childcare listings accessible through the Local Offer with relevant SEND information. Most of these directories included both mainstream and specialist providers and could be sorted by categories such as service type e.g. nursery, childminder etc., need or condition, and age range.
- Twenty per cent of local authorities used the Local Offer to provide some information for early education and childcare providers about supporting children with SEND. Most commonly, this guidance focused on access to training or practical support from the local authority, but in some cases local authorities also provided details of top-up funding, responsibilities under the Equalities Act 2010 or signposting to further sources of advice and guidance.
An audit by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) found a large variation in the quality of the information in Local Offers. They found that many local authorities failed to provide information about specialist provisions for deaf children.
In 41 Local Offers, information about specialist provision for deaf children was hard to access and 21 Local Offers did not seem to include information about the specialist education service for deaf children. NDCS also found a low awareness of the Local Offer among parents: only 17 per cent of parents surveyed were aware of the Local Offer.