The ‘key-working’ project was a research study funded by the Department for Education and commissioned by the National Children’s Bureau. Silvana Mengoni, Research Fellow in FELS, Janet Bardsley, Lecturer in Health & Social Care and myself, as project lead, worked with families and practitioners in both statutory and voluntary services and with commissioners and managers in local authorities.
Our aim was to identify the different ways of co-ordinating support for families with children or young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and to produce a guidance booklet, primarily for practitioners and managers, to enable them to better meet the requirements of the Children and Families Act 2014.
This Act, and the SEND Code of Practice which accompanies it to guide implementation, requires local authorities to co-ordinate SEND services. The starting point for our research was the way of working, and set of functions, previously developed by the Early Support programme. These provisions put the family at the centre of all the different services that can be involved in the life of a child or young person with SEND, and seek to enhance the communication and support network around the family.
Our research objectives included identifying the benefits of co-ordination, using the ‘key-working’ concept to extend the concept of a ‘key worker’, a single person who works with a family, to encompass a broader, inclusive process which extends the roles of everyone in the team around the child or young person and their family.
Because the production of the guide for developing key working was a ‘co-production’, we fed back our preliminary findings to people in the four areas in which we had been working, and took account of their comments in moving forward with the drafting of the guide. Since the core feature of co-production is working in collaboration with all the publics with whom and for whom the research is conducted, we also met with and collected comments from trainers and practitioners in the Early Support community of practice. Once the final (13th) draft was finished and delivered to the Council for Disabled Children, our natural next step was to seek funding to continue to engage with the publics with whom we had been working, to evaluate the usefulness of the guide and potentially to produce a second, better-informed edition. And, luckily, our bid in the Catalysts funding programme was successful!