The Local Offer (Local Authority) Support Group consists of 23 local authorities (19 of whom form part of the Department for Education's South East Regional Network).
One of the main objectives of the Local Offer group is to share resources, ideas and approaches and conduct peer reviews of Local Offer websites.
During September 2014 (when the Children and Families Act ’14 was first implemented) Hampshire’s Local Offer Designated Officer (LODO) being new in post contacted the neighbouring authority West Sussex’s LODO to discuss the development of Local Offer content and the challenges that they were facing. The peer relationship that developed highlighted that both authorities were facing similar challenges and it was agreed that it would help if they continued to work together to find potential solutions. The benefits of this peer support highlighted to the Hampshire LODO that it could be extremely valuable to have similar discussions with other authorities – particularly with those authorities bordering Hampshire (of which there are 13).
Having made contact with the neighbouring authorities, Hampshire’s LODO organised an initial support group meeting. The vision was to have this initial meeting and then communicate virtually (through emails) from then on. However, the success and impact of this meeting highlighted the value of having opportunities to meet face to face. As a result Hampshire’s LODO decided to arrange further meetings to provide a regular opportunity to have open forum discussions.
The group grew to include 24 local authorities (of which 19 are on the DFE approved list of South East Authorities). There has been real synergy between the local authorities, which has been irrespective of size and locality.
The Local Offer Support Group meetings give local authorities the opportunity to discuss challenges they have faced (or are facing), how they have overcome these and the successes they have achieved. There is opportunity to learn from each other and move forwards in all areas.
Having the opportunity to meet face to face and identify neighbouring authority contact details has also enabled other authorities to discuss border issues, which would have been more difficult to establish had they not met at the LO Support Group meeting.
As a result of a presentation delivered by the CEO of Hampshire Parent Carer Network (HPCN) at one of the meetings, an attending local authority was better able to address their lack of parent participation. They met with the CEO of HPCN separately where they discussed opportunities and best practice. This was apparently most beneficial to the authority. See also below for feedback received.
The DFE has recognised the value of this support group and are supporting by way of commissioning Mott MacDonald to facilitate the undertaking of a peer review of Local Offers (LO).
16 out of the 19 approved south east local authorities signed up to participate in the February 2017 Local Offer peer review.
2 Tele-conferences were organised by Mott MacDonald to explain what was required and the process. Hampshire County Council invited a parent rep and two young people to attend.
Hampshire County Council set up a meeting with the aforementioned parent and young people (one male / one female) where we discussed the best way to carry out the review. It was decided that we would carry out the review and feedback record independently and then we would meet again to collate and discuss our findings.
The young people were offered 3 options 1) to complete the full template 2) to complete a shortened version 3) to provide 3 things they liked / disliked. Hampshire County Councils’ young people reps opted to complete the full template.
Hampshire County Council was paired with Buckinghamshire County Council.
Having discussed our findings the LODO decided that as we had approached it differently and allocated different scores / comments that it would be more helpful to record the collective feedback on to one document but to colour code each comment to enable Buckinghamshire to see who said what.
Two workshops were arranged by Mott MacDonald – Hampshire County Council LODO and the parent rep attended the 9th February workshop. The young people had other commitments so were unable to attend.
Each pairing was allocated a table so that the feedback documents could be shared and explained where appropriate. After this had been completed, each local authority completed an area action plan template using the feedback provided.
To view Buckinghamshire's review of Hampshire's Local Offer, please view the download document on the right.
Two Local Offer Peer Review Workshops were held in the South East region during March 2018.
The purpose of the workshop was to enable local authorities to act as a peer review and
challenge to another local authority in the region. In doing this, local authorities were to:
● Review a partner LA’s Local Offer using a range of case studies and have their Local Offer reviewed in return;
● Identify how their partner could improve their Local Offer and receive feedback on their own;
● Share good practice and ideas to improve individual Local Offers across all LAs in the
● Identify any regional issues and develop solutions; and
● Involve parent carers and young people in the development of Local Offers.
Hampshire County Council was paired with Slough Borough Council and the report on the findings can be viewed in the document download "Local Offer Review Framework for Hampshire completed by Slough March 2018" on this page.
Feedback included: Slough found Hampshire’s young people’s section attractive and young person-friendly with helpful videos and pictures. They also liked the advice and help pages on Hampshire’s Local Offer which contained good content.
The Local Offer Support Group development and ongoing maintenance requires a tenacious attitude and a substantial resource (hours available) is required. To provide a support group such as the one mentioned above is demanding but the value and outcomes resulting from each meeting do make the hard work worth while (as indicated by the quotes below).
Since the implementation of the C&F Act 2014, setting up and developing the content of Local Offers have been the priority for local authorities. However, now that most authorities have an established LO, areas that can benefit from this local authority support group include parent / young people / children engagement; communication and publicity; commissioning of services; review of LO content; cross border issues to name a few.
Following the January 2016 meeting in Winchester, Hampshire's Local Offer Designated Officer sent out a feedback survey to those in attendance. Some of the comments received can be seen below:
- “Thanks for hosting and organising yesterday. I find the meetings really useful and appreciate all you do”.
- “Just to say again how useful I found yesterday’s meeting. I’m sure you will be asked to continue, despite the additional workload
- “Thank you so much for organising the fab event on Thursday. It was really good and very helpful to listen about the Ofsted / CQC inspection. It was very well attended and that shows just how good people feel these meetings are”
- “Thanks for organising off your own back such a great and useful event……. Appreciate how much work this must have been to organise!”
- “I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had not managed to attend one before. It was better than I expected and very well organised!”
- Q: What was the highlight: “All of it – the role can be very isolated and so it is useful to gain an overview of the challenges and solutions from other LAs.”