Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council (BCC) is the local government body responsible for the governance of the metropolitan district of Birmingham in the UK, it has been a metropolitan district since 1974. Birmingham is the UK’s second-largest city, urban area and metropolitan area, with roughly 1.1 million immediate inhabitants within the city area, 2.9 million inhabitants within the urban area and 3.6 million inhabitants within the metropolitan area. The city proper is the most populated English local government district. BCC is the largest local authority in Europe.

BCC are the owners of another client of Sentinel Partners, Birmingham Childrens’ Trust (BCT), who were originally the BCC Children’s Social Services directorate. BCT are, nonetheless, independent from Birmingham City Council and have also benefitted from our products and services in very different use case scenarios

The Problem

The BCC Early Years Funding team needed a new online payments solution for managing termly funding for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds, which includes real-time eligibility checks for Funding Status, Free School Meals (FSM) and Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP). Early Years Education providers across Birmingham needed instant updates on child applications from parents for the 30 Hours funding initiative.  

Originally, many processes were paper based. Providers were asked for head counts and the subsequent information exchange took up to 4 weeks. The reimbursement was often based on a 60% amount based on expectation and provided as an advance payment. When the actual head count came weeks later settings were paid the additional funds of the difference.  

This paper based down payment model had several inherent problems, such as risk of overpaying, frequent adjustments, no control over data quality / data accuracy, little visibility of duplicate payments (of a child across multiple providers) and significant additional administrative costs.  

BCC needed a solution of real time online data collection to understand current term child data to support more accurate payments. This solution needed to be flexible to accommodate Birmingham’s term dates and the providers school holiday provision. 

How we solved the problem

Sentinel Partners provided the latest version of our Early Years Funding Portal which covers all aspects of universal and extended nursery funding.

Serving more than 900 early years settings across the city, the portal enables real-time checks to be made against the Department for Education's online Eligibility Checking System (ECS). It also provides immediate responses to online ECS application requests being made by all settings to the 30 Hours funding initiative. Additionally, parents themselves can check the funding eligibility of their two-year-old children using the same real-time web services. 

The benefits of using our data platform

Adoption of Sentinel’s Early Years Funding Portal means that local authorities as large as Birmingham can accurately and easily manage any volume of child records and eligibility checks that need to be processed. Both settings and parents are kept informed and updated as applications are processed. Wide-ranging functionality also means that once children are being funded, the portal will automatically check for their continuing eligibility as they approach the end of the funding period.

Benefits Include:

  • Data entered directly by parents and providers removes the need for time-consuming paperwork, and overcomes inconsistent, poor-quality data

  • Controlled data entry windows can be defined and enforced to ensure local authorities get the information they need, when they need it

  • Online collection for children's data, supported by real-time eligibility status confirmation and uploaded documents such as birth certificates

  • Configurable payment calculations allow the Early Years Team to enter funding rates by type and by age, cater for local requirements such as post code and rurality deprivation, and add annual values for Disability Access payments

  • Quick calculation of funding payments based on actual information and managed via parameter-driven processes and frequencies that clients can control and adjust  

  • Full integration with the finance system providing the ability to send payments and accounts statements securely via each provider’s individual portal 

  • Automatic notifications highlight anomalies such as ineligible or duplicated children, children who are exceeding funded hours, where a child's assessment data is a potential cause for concern and children who are new to the authority
  • Early Years Team Dashboards summarise the overall status across all settings including child tracking across multiple providers

  • Provider Dashboards summarise all aspects of their funding process and provide online access to payment status and statements

  • Reporting at the click of a button with access to dashboard reports and downloadable files

  • Comprehensive security and data governance features include easy-to-set permission/access levels

  • Comprehensive data collection including all Sufficiency Data in line with DfE guidelines  

  • Integrated annual processes to collect, validate and submit Early Years Census to DfE  

  • Easily extended to enable wider data sharing with other teams such as safeguarding  

Transform data use in your organisation

Book your free data assessment today, and find out how much of an impact Sentinel's data management tools can have on your business.

  • Strict control and monitoring of data quality
    and completeness.
  • Built using a the ICO’s ‘data protection by design’
  • Trusted by public sector organisations and local authorities.
  • Experienced, dedicated team of data integration and data sharing specialists.

Take the hassle out of data management. Call us on +44(0)800 612 2116 or send us an email [email protected].