Knowsley takes the next step in its EHCP QA journey with the Annual Review tool
A year into adopting the second Invision360 tool, the Annual Review tool, we catch up with Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council’s SEND Quality Improvement Officer, Rebecca Farrell.
Rebecca shares how the combined efforts of the EHCP Audit and Annual Review tool are dramatically improving compliance and, most importantly, supporting better outcomes for children and young people in Knowsley.
Rebecca, could you tell us about your local authority and your SEND team?
Well, we are a relatively small local authority, which is reflected in the size of our SEND team. We have a Team Manager, eight SEND Case Workers (who prepare EHCPs and conduct annual reviews of plans), a SEND Consultation Engagement Officer, two Case Worker Assistants, and me, a SEND Quality Improvement Officer.
Other larger local authorities close to us have separate teams and so some of those areas split their teams up to manage annual reviews, post-sixteens, and new assessments work. But we are working together as one and so our case workers work across all areas.
As SEND Quality Improvement Officer, part of my role at Knowsley is to audit EHCPs and annual review auditing. I make sure that, as a local authority, we are compliant and following our statutory obligations.
Before adopting the Invision360 AR tool, what did your Annual Review QA process look like?
It was quite limited. We have over 2,000 children and young people with an EHCP and before the tool, there was no structured way of overseeing the annual review QA process. There was management oversight in terms of casework management and amendments, but with such a large number of plans and reviews, it was proving challenging.
Before, it was largely a manual process. Now with the Invision360 Annual Review Tool, I dip sample cases and upload for auditing. If I notice any patterns or changes or if we have new staff who need further training, I hone in and take a deeper dive.
Knowsley has also commissioned our EHCP QA tool. Have you found the dual tool to be beneficial?
Yes, I have. The Invision360 EHCP tool has supported us significantly with the improvement of our EHCP quality over the past two years.
We went through a period where we had lots of new case workers. We were able to use the EHCP QA tool to educate them on what needs to be included within each plan. They’re now all fully aware of what they are working towards, how the grading works, and why all those things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about, can and do, have an impact on the quality of EHCPs.
The improved quality, along with the development of our annual review processes, means we are confident that we are working towards a more consistent and compliant model. Ultimately supporting the service but also the children, young people, and families who we work with.
Having both tools means that we can look at the quality and identify what is going well and what needs further improvement. Together, both tools are helping us work towards being compliant with the SEND Code of Practice, which can be challenging at times.
The EHCP tool has worked phenomenally well in our area, and I know this from our results. I do not have time to audit over 2000 annual reviews a year but because we have adopted both tools, I can dip sample audit annual reviews because I know that our plans are of an increased quality.
What was your experience whilst onboarding Invision360?
Here at Knowsley, we have a good relationship with Invision360, and the Annual Review tool was presented to us as part of an EHCP review meeting with Invision360’s Phil and Mark. The Head of Service and I were able to explore the tool in detail, see what the tool could give us and were able to ask all the questions we could think of. This was before we even started using the Annual Review tool.
The good thing about Invision360 is that you’re not just buying a tool. We have a close working relationship with the Invision360 team who are very willing to listen to the people who are buying into their services. We can contact them directly if we ever have any queries.
I know for a fact, if I had a problem, I could message the Invision360 team, and they will find the time to help me. We have a designated account manager we reach out to, which is brilliant. I can say “I’ve noticed XX can you help”? We’re paying for a service and we’re getting a service. The support we get is invaluable.
How has the Invision360 AR tool been a positive influence at Knowsley and for your team so far?
The first recognisable thing that the tool helped us identify was that our annual review paperwork/process was not suitable.
We identified that we are not always responding to annual reviews in time. We noticed that certain settings were not returning paperwork on time, which directly impacts timeliness. What we are gradually doing, in a very structured way, is to educate, put in place new processes and build relationships. The Invision360 Annual Review tool allows us to see, far more clearly, through identified common themes, where those that conduct reviews may be struggling and where we need to improve.
We are also now taking steps towards further improving internal processes so that they are more compliant with the statutory process. Again, this was challenging to identify before introducing the Invision360 Annual Review tool.
Looking back, when we first introduced the tool, it was the first time that we could truly monitor outcomes, and that was a big thing for us. The annual review tool is invaluable in supporting us in changing our processes. It also enables our case workers to better manage their time, and so there’s an overarching feeling that everyone is supported.
Have you seen an improvement in the quality of your Annual Reviews?
Absolutely. Our previous audits were consistently coming out at the lowest grade due to the lack of oversight and information that was included in annual review documentation. We now have a far more consistent approach to the Annual Review from all settings (that hold reviews) and support those who run reviews to be aware of the statutory processes (e.g., distributing advice 2 weeks before). This alone is resulting in more positive outcomes/gradings of our annual reviews.
The tool supported us in developing a brand-new annual review document which is what we use across all relevant settings. It gives us a section-by-section skeleton of sorts to help us identify what need to be looking for, which was something we could not do before. We were not able to track outcomes prior to the tool because there wasn’t really a space for anybody to do that in the previous documentation.
Our new annual review document has helped settings provide the right information and understand what is needed. It has made things much easier, and we’ve received brilliant feedback.
They now understand the legal process as well because we made a checklist for contributors to follow with helpful prompts telling them when to circulate advice and invite input from others.
It is already proving to be a game-changer in terms of gathering information, tracking things, and monitoring outcomes. Crucially, it is also supporting our settings in understanding a little bit more about the process; what it is, why we do certain things and why we're making certain decisions.
We can review a plan and look at the outcome to ask if is it still required, and if so, where are they up to on working towards the outcome. Is it working and if not, why? We have never had this level of insight before.
What would you say to another local authority considering investing in the tool?
I’d absolutely recommend Invision360 to any local authority. Although we are in the early stages of using the Annual Review audit tool, the support and positive impact we have already seen is vital in supporting us to be better.
We’ve seen massive progress in the quality of our EHCPs, and this is only just the beginning of our annual review improvement journey.
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