London Borough of Bromley

London Borough of Bromley (LBB) is one of the 32 borough councils that make up the Greater London area. It is the South-Eastern-most borough which borders Kent, so it has a mix of both urban and rural areas. Although it has a population of almost 340,000 people, it has the lowest population density of all the London Boroughs. 

The Problem

LBB wanted to become fully compliant with DfE Early Years national objectives to help fund more early years education across the country helping every child to be more school ready, which in turn leads to better outcomes for primary school children. 

The DfE wants to increase the level of engagement with parents and give them more choice over the Early Years Education of their children by providing more on-line, self-service options to find and engage with potential education providers. 

Further, there is growing objective to help Early Years Education providers manage and grow their businesses by paying them monthly, based on accurate information on child attendance all year round.  

LBB Looked at the market but could find no IT supplier to deliver everything that was needed. Following this, LBB were advised by the DfE to speak to Sentinel following our work in supporting the complex Early Years needs for Birmingham City Council. 

How we solved the problem

Our technology of a core Data Integration Platform supporting agile Portal Applications, is well placed to support authorities in this area and is already being used to support the exacting requirements at Birmingham.

We worked with LBB to establish their requirements and sequence of priorities, then set to work to deliver a series of short agile projects to extend our existing Early Years Funding Portal.  


When beginning our search for an early years solutions partner, we realised that what we wanted ultimately wasn't available off the shelf, prompting us to choose Sentinel. We saw it as a solution with potential for development, allowing the core package to be tailored to our specific needs.

The solution we have is bespoke; we can set up online contracts for any individual child, and the system generates the payment. This capability is complemented by the system's ability to determine a child's eligibility within a second. Moreover, the solution has made our process much smarter, enabling us to go completely paper-free. The system's flexibility ensures that most eventualities can be taken into consideration. This flexibility has also empowered us to manage borough operations on a day-to-day basis, rather than waiting for the census. Additionally, it has positioned us as one of the few local authorities paying our providers monthly based on actuals. Overall, Sentinel has given us the opportunity to be more child focused.

For providers, the solution has reduced bureaucracy and streamlined the payment process. Providers can see monthly exactly how much money they have coming in and what they are being paid for each child. They have access to a lot more information at their fingertips.

The Sentinel team knows the system inside out. They can turn queries around very quickly, and they are working well with us on the recent expansion of the new DfE funding streams.

London Borough of Bromley
Early Years Solution

The benefits of using our data platform

LBB is now leading the way with our pioneering Early Years Funding Portal. Serving 450 settings and over 5,000 children, the new system has transformed the London Borough’s approach and is proving popular with providers as it delivers accurate, monthly payments. They are distributing £20 million worth of funding with a team of four people, which is quite amazing.

In creating our marketing leadings Funding Portal, we have provided the following range of functionality that now allows the LBB team to fully manage data collection and data quality in order to provide accurate monthly payments: 

Key Functionality: 

  • An online, cloud-based Provider portal, allowing providers to engage with parents and capture child information directly onto their own register  
  • Documents such as birth certificates are uploaded as evidence of children's age and status
  • Automatic, on-line, funding eligibility checks are carried out with the DfE and updates are passed to the provider in real time on child funding status. Further, automated, periodic checks are carried out to reconfirm eligibility when the time is right
  • Providers offer places for parents to accept online, and a contract is put in place on the Portal
  • Data matching across children’s records, automatically identify and block excessive hour funding claims for parents attempting to incorrectly claim across more than one provider
  • Different opening time models are available to suit the needs of different providers. For all registered children, providers can select from a range of flexible funding templates (such as 38-, 48- or 52-week opening time models) for automatic checks and calculations to prevent excessive hours
  • Provider payments can either be calculated upfront, after a claim submission, or in arrears.  Payment periods are flexible (monthly or termly). Adjustments can be made by the council’s Early Years team to allow for under/over payments
  • Automatic creation of payment files for direct consumption into billing engines such as Oracle and SAP
  • Providers have access to online statements and account views so they can check their own figures without having to chase the council team
  • A 'Back Office' management portal for the council’s Early Years team to oversee and manage the entire process and help providers as needed   
  • Automatic alerts on data anomalies such as duplicate child claims or payment calculation queries. They are also able to review and approve any provider data change requests (such as changes to contact details)
  • An integrated SENIF module, allows for SENIF payments to be allocated at a child level or via a provider help-package basis, which is automatically added to the monthly payments
  • Automated data feeds for Ofsted registered provider details so that all provider setting details are controlled and integrated with the authorised master data. The solution can also link to in-house education systems to provide a cross system Single View of a child
  • A Parent Portal that allows the parent to register their own children and request places via self-service rather than going via the provider
  • An ECS checker for carers/parents to check 30H or 2YO eligibility without the need for an account
  • Integrated statutory returns such as Census or other data collection such as sufficiency

Benefits Include

  • Data is entered directly by parents and providers, removing the need for time-consuming paperwork and helping to overcome inconsistent, poor-quality data
  • Payment period Start-and-End dates can be defined to control the data entry windows to help 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 calculations and checks of funding payments, based on actual information and managed via parameter-driven processes and frequencies, to provide visible and accurate payment results
  • Full integration with the finance system providing the ability to send payments and accounts statements securely via each provider’s individual portal 
  • Automatic notifications to highlight data 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 and services such as safeguarding 
  • In-build process management of the parent and provider relationship and the signing of the Parent Contract 

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