Kent County Council's Children's Services were under consistent pressure due to increasing requests around support for children with special educational needs (SEN). Growing demand for the service was creating a negative encounter for some families, with parents experiencing delays and slow progress. Staff shared the frustration with high caseloads and a struggle to keep up with incoming cases.

Kent County Council invited us to work with them, having seen FamilyStory, and wanted our support in valuing the ability to use design thinking and digital to make changes to the way services are delivered.


We worked collaboratively with the Special Educational Needs Service, Innovation team and Digital team to form a new multidisciplinary working group. Together, we set out to improve the experience of delivering and accessing support for children with SEN.

Building on our knowledge from previous work in this area in Dorset, we focused on the early stages of seeking help for a child with SEN (applying for education, health and care plan or EHCP). This was the first step to develop improvements and introduce new ways of working to begin to make changes across the system.

We involved individuals including parents and young people, the SEN service, schools, health practitioners and commissioners to gain a wider understanding of challenges in the service.

Using simple prototypes of improvements we were able to have conversations with people to understand if the proposed changes would improve their experience of delivering or accessing support.

We printed out drawings of screens to show how users might access information and apply for support online, to test if the information provided was helpful and if the ways they apply for support would work.

Kent children with special educational needs service demo

Through the 10 week process of creating prototypes and testing we made three improvements:

  • simplified content on the Kent Council Council website
  • created an interactive tool for people applying for an Education Health and Care plan, to ensure it’s the right option for their child’s needs
  • created an Education Health and Care Plan online (previously this was done over the phone or via schools or health practitioners) providing an easier additional option for families
Sharing, testing and gathering feedback on prototypes and ideas during a Kent County Council children with special educational needs idea planning session

We also introduced new ways of working and communicating including fortnightly ‘Show and Tells’, agile project management principles and began using Slack (a digital communication tool). The new team has adopted these ways of working to continue to work together to implement changes, with those involved explaining that they found it hugely valuable and productive:

I’m really positive about everything we have done so far. It will definitely help the process of requesting an EHCP assessment. The team seemed to be really interested and genuinely keen on listening to our thoughts.

Feedback from a member of the blended team


We’re still testing how the changes introduced impact the experience of using the support service. To help us evaluate the impact we developed a ‘Theory of Change’ which maps out the short and long term impact expected and how we measure it.

We’re expecting a reduction in inappropriate requests for support and therefore a relieving pressure on the service. Importantly we expect families to feel appropriately supported and will be monitoring to understand if the changes help achieve this.

Having seen the change and pace that the approach has provided, the Special Educational Needs Board are now planning how they extend the ways of working to support more of their work within the council.

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