Improving child and family support

Running a discovery with Dorset Council to help children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities access support.

The project

Through children and family services, communities are able to access the support they need locally. This can cover lots of areas from things like education to health and is crucial for helping people live healthy and happy lives. 

Dorset Council wanted to make sure their website was pointing people towards the great support available in the local area. And they had a particular focus on the support in place for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We ran a discovery for the council around their website, finding ways to help families access the information useful to them quickly and easily.

Our approach

Dorset Council’s website pages for families had a lot of content filled with information for many different services and support. Our main focus was to find ways to make this a lot simpler to access and understand. 

We did a lot of research with families on the specific challenges they had with using the website. This helped the council team set a vision for the future of what they wanted the children and families service to look like. 

We analysed our research to come up with user statements that would help guide any fix or change we could make to the website. We built a set of principles based on these.

We also used these statements to create ‘how might we’ cards. These cards stated the problems we wanted to fix. Such as how might we make sure our website content is easy to understand and useful for children and families? The cards were a practical way to help us link together all the challenges faced by families. We also used them to brainstorm solutions in collaborative workshops. 

From there we knew there was a really big content design piece of work needed. We helped recognise some of the areas this could focus on which included, making sure content is up to date, in the right style and engaging. We then created a prototype that drew together all the ideas about Dorset Council’s SEND offer.

The results

The prototype took in many of our recommendations, including:

  • A network of support – creating a community of support with local organisations from across the Dorset Council area and bringing all that information together in one place 
  • Search engine optimisation – making better use of council newsletters, marketing the support available and ranking higher in internet search results
  • Tailored content – making sure the content on the website works for different users, whether that’s parents looking for information or young people searching for support 

We were able to help them work together and create one shared vision that puts families front and centre of all decisions. The team is now more experienced in working in user-centred ways. With new skill sets and resources they’re ready to run their own projects that will continue to improve the website for children and families.

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