Unique website supports children with special educational needs

A unique website has supported thousands of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to access services, events and information in West Sussex.

Local Offer West Sussex SUS-160808-121806001
Local Offer West Sussex SUS-160808-121806001

The Local Offer website was launched in 2014 by West Sussex County Council as a one-stop-shop for parents and carers of young people aged from birth to 25 years with SEND.

There are now more than 3,000 members of the public who regularly use the website which includes a wider range of support and services available.

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This includes:

• A new online calendar of events, activities and training opportunities for children, young people, families and professionals;

• An improved comment feature on individual directory pages for services;

• A new ‘How to use our Local Offer’ button on the homepage;

• The ability to add a video to the directory pages for individual services;

• An increased number of ‘information’ pages of improved quality.

With so much information on the Local Offer, one of the requests from users was to increase the number of community experts who can help share their knowledge with others locally.

There are now 20 Local Offer parent ambassadors all are members of the West Sussex Parent Carer Forum and who can signpost parents to the Local Offer.

Throughout September, the Local Offer is having a special month of promotions and special messages will be spread through social media.

The ambassadors and Local Offer followers will be encouraged to share these messages to highlight the benefits of the website.

In September, there will also be the launch of a new leaflet explaining more about how the website can help local families.

Stephen Hillier, WSCC’s cabinet member for children – start of life, said: “Our aim is to make the Local Offer website the first port of call for all parents or carers to find local and relevant services, events and information. We also want them to feel supported as it can often feel quite isolating having children with SEND.

“By using the Local Offer, people can find out what support is available from within their local community as well as through regional and national services.”

Local Offer has also helped to shape the services provided by the county council including the Short Breaks service for children and young people who have a disability and/or additional need.

In 2015 families with SEND told the county council that they wanted to have more breaks together as a whole family, more access to sports including swimming and horse riding, and more Short Breaks in the school holidays.

This was used to shape the way the Short Breaks team commissioned new services and as a result there are now more Short Break services around these priorities. They also have a better geographical spread.

One of the Local Offer Parent Ambassadors said: “What [Local Offer] is doing is so valuable for SEND parents and carers. People like me need to lay our hands on information quickly, the Local Offer is the perfect place for this! I think it’s a brilliant resource.”

A student studying a BA in Primary and Education Teaching said: “In all honesty I had never heard of the Local Offer until my lecturer mentioned it.

“As a trainee teacher it has opened my eyes and shown me that there is help out there and that as a teacher you do not have to deal with challenging or at risk children by yourself.”

For more information and to view the annual report, visit West Sussex Local Offer via www.local-offer.org

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