New online service to be launched at national summit

A new online service developed in partnership with Telford &Wrekin Council and the local parent carer will be unveiled tomorrow (21 Jan) at the Bett Education Summit in London’s Excel Centre.

New online service to be launched at national summit

The service is set to revolutionise the way families with disabled children access health, education and social care services in local authorities.

Telford and Wrekin is one of only 10 areas nationally to be chosen as co-developers of this service and local parents, providers and council teams have influenced all aspects of the design and roll out of this service. is sponsored by nine leading disability charities (the SEND Consortium) and funded by the Department for Education and the Department of Health.

This is in direct response to families telling them that finding vital local services for their child with special educational needs or a disability (SEND) is over-complicated, confusing and choice is severely limited.

The need for SENDirect and its pioneering new approach to the way families find and buy the local services they need is backed by research carried out by the SEND Consortium of over 300 families which revealed that:

· The vast majority said they had few or no choices when it came to seeking either social (81%), education (75%) or health services (64%), or for their disabled child

· Three quarters of families (75%) said it was either quite or very difficult to find information about what services are available in their area

· Around a third (32%) said they rarely or never found the services they needed

SENDirect addresses these issues by putting families firmly in control for the first time, enabling them to search for, buy and review existing services and to find the information they need to make the right decision for their child. 

At the same time, SENDirect will help providers promote the services they offer while the invaluable information that SENDirect gathers about what families in individual areas want and need, will help local authorities shape and improve services. 

An easier way for families to find vital support for their child is more important than ever

The Children and Families Act changed the way services for children with SEND are commissioned and sold and introduced personal budgets money allocated by local authorities to carers so they can arrange and pay for essential support services. 

Elizabeth Archer, Project Director for SENDirect, says: “SENDirect offers a genuine solution for families with children who have SEND and who are desperate for more choice and control over the range of services their child accesses. 

“Too many parents we speak to find that currently, the process of finding and buying these services is extremely frustrating. In addition many remain unaware of personal budgets or don’t know how to use them effectively. 

“We’ve worked with 1000s of families, dozens of service providers and 10 local authorities to develop SENDirect. 

“We are confident that our new online service will help families, service providers and local authorities across the country work together in a much more effective way - ensuring families with children who have special educational needs or a disability receive the right services at the right time wherever they live."

Councillor Paul Watling, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “We are proud of the work of Telford and Wrekin’s families and professionals in developing this service, and are delighted to celebrate its launch. 

“We have made a strong start with 400 Telford services already available for families to search through and find. 

“However we are not complacent and we know that for SENDirect to have a transformative effect on what’s available locally we need local people to support us by encouraging every activity, venue and service to list what they do and to let families of children with additional needs know that they are welcome.

“Over the next couple of months we will be distributing 1000s of parent prompt cards through the parent carer forum, schools, libraries and community events. 

“We want parents to take ownership of what is available to them by passing these cards onto organisations they think should be on the site to encourage them to list.

“In order to make this even easier for services we’ve negotiated a free listing until January 2016 for every local service who’ve published what they do by the end of March.”

To find out more about how SENDirect will make life easier for families with children who have a disability or special educational needs visit