As a local authority, we’re required to publish a local offer that provides information about the support available in Stockport for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their parents, carers and families. This includes information, advice and guidance about Stockport services and how to access them, as well as information about the groups, clubs and support services that are available locally.

Previously, the Stockport SEND local offer website has been held on an external platform that’s separate from the Stockport Council website. Over the years, the website became overrun with information which was difficult to manage and often became out of date or duplicated. Feedback from parents, carers and professionals helped us to identify the following issues with the website:

  • it’s difficult to navigate and information is hard to find
  • information is not maintained and quickly becomes out of date
  • there’s too much information on the website which can feel overwhelming
  • some information is duplicated which can be confusing
  • some links are broken which is frustrating

From a technical and design perspective, we also identified issues around:

  • the use of PDF documents which make information difficult for some users to access
  • the use of inaccessible colour contrasts
  • images being used without alternative (alt) text, making them inaccessible to users who rely on assistive technology such as screen readers
  • a lack of analytics, which prevents us from understanding user behaviour
  • a lack of governance around the information that’s added to the website

Our focus

With several issues that we wanted to solve, we split the project into 2 phases:

  1. Improve the navigation and quality of information, advice and guidance about Stockport services.
  2. Review the directory entries to make sure that the information for groups, clubs and organisations is up to date and that they appear in the right categories and search results.

For the first phase, several options were discussed and it was decided that the best course of action was to move the information, advice and guidance about Stockport services from the local offer website to the council website. This would have many benefits, including:

  • creating a better flow of information and user journey
  • identifying any information that might be incorrect, duplicated or missing
  • using best practice content design principles to provide information that’s easy to understand
  • removing information from PDFs and writing it as text on a webpage to make the information accessible to everyone
  • allowing us to make use of in-built software including:
    • analytics to help us to understand user behaviour, track user journeys and use appropriate language based on the search terms that people use
    • the Ami chatbot to help users find the information that they need
    • the Recite Me accessibility tool which helps users to access information in a way that works for them

How we approached it

We engaged with SEND champions to further understand the issues that parents, carers and professionals were facing with the local offer website. We then completed an audit of the local offer website to identify the areas of information that we needed to work on. This also helped to identify areas of duplication, outdated information and broken links. We carried out competitor analysis to investigate how other local authorities displayed their information and referred to the SEND code of practice to make sure that we had a plan to cover all of the areas of information stated in the legislation.

Taking each service area individually, we worked with subject matter experts to review and re-write their content. We created user needs to make sure that we were providing the information that people needed, including:

  • information about the services available
  • how to access support
  • eligibility requirements
  • information about timeframes to help manage expectations
  • how to give feedback about the SEND local offer
  • how we’ve used feedback to improve our services

We created a new showcase area on the council website to act as a ‘front door’ to the SEND local offer, bringing together all of the information in one place that’s clear and easy to navigate. Visit the SEND local offer showcase.

Next steps

Now that the newly developed information is live on the council website, we’ll monitor and analyse feedback which we’ll use to inform any future development. We plan to develop the showcase further to include staff profiles, news updates and events.

We’ll then move on to phase 2 where we’ll review the SEND local offer directory, remove any groups that are no longer active and update group information to make sure that we’re providing the most up to date details. We’ll also make sure that the groups are categorised appropriately so that they appear in the right search results. This will help parents and carers to find what they’re looking for.

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