Category: Parent carer participation

It’s National Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) and we just wanted to say a massive THANK YOU to the thousands of parents who volunteer as part of their local parent carer forum.

Parent carer forums work in partnership with local authorities, education settings, health providers and others to make sure services in their area meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families. 

The volunteers that run forums carry out a wide range of activities. Whether it’s representing parent experiences at local authority or health provider meetings, running events or offering a warm welcome to new members, the unpaid work they do is core to helping forums reach out to their communities and reduce isolation while pushing for service improvements for families of children and young people with SEND.

We asked parent carers what they like best about volunteering for their local parent carer forum and here’s what they said:

“I feel like putting my energy into changing things for the future helped me deal with the present. I learnt so many strategies that helped at the time, and still do.”

“What I like most about volunteering is meeting other parents/carers and feeling like I’ve made their day just that bit easier by listening to them and letting them know they aren’t alone and pointing them in the right direction to find the support they need.”

“I chose to become a committee member, first and foremost I think it’s important that all SEND parents and carers are informed of all the help and support that is available to them. I also believe that as a collective voice we have a much greater chance of making real changes to improve ours and future children’s lives for the better.”

I became a member as I want to make a difference in my area and how SEND is done in my area to the best of my knowledge, and get what’s right for parents and young people.”

Inspired to find out more about forums?

Watch our videos What is a Parent Carer and What do they do?, to find out more about them and how parents across England are helping improve local and national services for children with SEND and Making a Difference, Why Should I Join My Local Parent Carer Forum? to hear parent carer forum members talking about why they got involved with their local parent carer forum.

Find your local parent carer forum.

Read more about parent carer forums, how Contact supports them, and the difference they make.  

We are delighted to let you know that the Department for Education (DfE) has awarded Contact and partners National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF), Council for Disabled Children and KIDS, a new contract to make sure parent carers, children and young people are involved in the delivery of SEND services and provision in England and have access to information advice and support.

The DfE funding means that over the next three years Contact will continue to work with 152 parent carer forums in England to make sure their voices are heard at a local, regional and national level. The new contract which starts this month, also enables us to continue our support offer to families with disabled children through our online information and national helpline.

The Council for Disabled Children will continue to support the Information, Advice and Support Network and will, alongside KIDS be supporting children and young people’s participation in local, regional and national policy and practice.

Gail Walshe, Contact’s director of participation says: “It’s great that The DfE continues to recognise the importance of having parent carers, children and young people at the heart of shaping disabled children’s services, the invaluable support of our online and helpline advice service and local SEND Information, Advice and Support Services (SENDIASS).  

“Contact has acted as the delivery partner to the DfE to support parent carer forums since 2008. Our new contract enables us to build on this and to also reach even more parent carers with our high-quality impartial information and advice. We look forward to working jointly with our consortium partners to improve the links between parent carer and children and young people’s forums so that more children and young people have an active voice in decision-making in their local areas.”

Contact will lead the work carried out by the consortium in this new contract which aims to:

Children and Families Minister Will Quince said:“Contact and their partners do fantastic work to make sure parent carers and young people are directly involved in how local SEND services work for them.

“This new government contract and grant funding, of over £17 million for three years, will support Contact’s work and make sure parents and young people’s voices continue to be heard at a local, regional and national level.

“Together we can make sure that all parents and carers, regardless of their child’s needs, have access to the advice and support they need to better succeed in life.”

How Contact supports parent carer forums

Contact helps to empower 152 parent carer forums and their membership of over 97,000 parent carers across England, to influence local, regional and national services and legislation. Find out more about our parent participation work and parent carer forums.

About our information and advice service

Our national information and advice service includes our website, social media channels, telephone helpline and live chat. Last year our helpline-online advice provided advice to 10,644 families, with invaluable information on a range of issues including financial support and getting help for a child in school. Find out more about our helpline and online advice service.

Today sees the start of the National Parent Carer Participation conference organised by Contact and the National Network for Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF).

Parent carers from 152 parent carer forums across England will meet at the three-day virtual conference starting today to look back at an extraordinary year and share their challenges and ideas through interactive information sessions, workshops and networking.

The action-packed conference also includes keynote speeches from ministers the Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Children and Families, Will Quince MP. In addition to this, conference attendees will have the opportunity to put their questions to Suzy Powell, deputy director of SEND policy and strategy at the Department for Education.

Gail Walshe, Director of Parent Carer Participation at Contact, says: “The passion and persistence of parent carer forums in the face of the barriers they face never ceases to amaze. 2020-21 threw up challenges that no one could have imagined as parents running forums juggled schooling, caring, self isolation and lockdowns. Despite this, forums across the country continued to champion the needs of families with disabled children by keeping their voices on the government’s radar by feeding back how the pandemic and government and local decisions affected families. At the same time forums found new ways of working in order to reach new parent carers, reduce isolation and strengthen the voice of families in their communities. We are delighted to host the 2021 Annual National Conference of Parent Carer Forums with the NNPCF and over the next three days hope to celebrate all the parent carers whose opinions and views have helped to make improvements to services across local areas in England. Contact is proud to support Parent Carer Forums and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and we are committed to listening to what they need to make them strong and sustainable for whatever the future brings.”

Tina Emery, Co-chair of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums says: “It’s great to be co-hosting our conference with Contact again this year.It is a fantastic opportunity for parent carer forum members across England to come together, albeit virtually, to gain more knowledge, to support one another, share their ideas and their experiences, but it’s also a chance to celebrate everyone’s achievements through what has been another year with COVID at the forefront.

Your contributions have made a massive difference to the feedback we give at a National level,  which is integral to NNPCF’s success. We’re really looking forward to bringing parent carers together for what promises to be an engaging and informative three days.”

Contact’s support for Forums

Find out more about how Contact supports Parent Carer Forums.

Parent carer participation annual review 2020-21

Our Parent carer participation annual review for 2020-21 is now published! Read more about how we support parent carer forums and the impact that parent carer forums had on the Covid response and locally.

Watch our videos

What is a parent carer forum and what do they do?, explains more about parent carer forums, parent participation and how parents across England are helping improve local and national services for children with SEND.

Making a difference, why should I join my local parent carer forum? In this video you’ll hear from parent carer forum members talking about why they got involved and the difference they make to children with SEND and their families.

The pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for many parent carer forums (PCFs)  – not least because they are run by parent carers who have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 in a number of  ways.

Despite the challenges, PCFs have found new ways of working in order to reach new parent carers, reduce isolation and strengthen the voice of families with disabled children in their communities at such a critical time. Some examples include:

Find out more about parent carer forums in England

Read more parent carer forum success stories, or get involved today by finding your local parent carer forum.

Watch our video What is a Parent Carer and What do they do? to find out more about Parent Carer Forums, parent carer participation, and how parents across England are helping to improve local and national services for children and young people with SEND.

Watch Making a difference, why Should I join my local Parent Carer Forum? to hear Parent Carer Forum members talking about why they got involved, and the difference they make to children and young people with SEND and their families.

Contact is the delivery partner of the Department for Education supporting the development of parent carer participation in England.

Co-production happens when families work with their local authorities, education settings and health providers to make sure services designed and delivered for their children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are what families want and need.

Although the word ‘co-production’ might be an unfamiliar term, it’s what 151 parent carer forums (PCFs) across England do daily to improve services and ensure better outcomes for families in their area.

To celebrate National Co-production Week, we’re shining a spotlight on parent carer forums and their successes co-producing services for families in this in this way. Forums like Parent Carers Cornwall, who set out to reduce the confusion and anxiety experienced by families when their child approached 16 and began the move from child to adult support services.

Parents in the area told the PCF they were often left in the dark about what happens to services for their child as they reach this significant milestone. Practitioners also reported that they were sometimes unclear about which service providers were responsible at each stage when a young person with SEND in their area turned 16.

To change this, Parent Carers Cornwall worked with families, young people with SEND and education, health, and social care practitioners. Together they co-produced clear, easy to understand guidance for families about what should happen and when, and developed defined protocols and procedures for practitioners to follow, setting out exactly who was responsible for which services.

As a result, families and practitioners in Cornwall now know what support their family should be offered, who should be providing it, and when they should expect to be able to access it for their young person with SEND when they move from child to adult services. And because similar confusion was experienced by families at other key stages of transition for their child, for example between nursery and primary school and from primary to secondary school, the forum continued this work to develop clear-cut guidance and protocols setting out what families should expect to happen at these stages too.

Take a look at some more examples of parent carer forums’ co-production successes here.

Want to find our more about parent carer forums and what they do?

Find your local parent carer forum.

Watch our video What is a Parent Carer and What do they do? to find out more about Parent Carer Forums, parent carer participation and how parents across England are helping to improve local and national services for children and young people with SEND.

Watch Making a difference, why Should I join my local Parent Carer Forum? to hear Parent Carer Forum members talking about why they got involved, and the difference they make to children and young people with SEND and their families.

Find out more about parent carer participation and Parent Carer Forums.

Contact is the delivery partner of the Department for Education supporting the development of parent carer participation in England.

This Volunteers’ Week, we want to say a massive thank you to the incredible 96,969 of you who are members of 151 parent carer forums (PCFs) across England.

Volunteers’ Week, which starts today, is the perfect time to show our appreciation for the thousands of parent carers who volunteer their time and do an incredible amount of unpaid work as part of their local PCF to help improve services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The range of work they do is vast and includes sharing their views and experiences, representing parents at local authority and health provider meetings, running events and collecting evidence to help  improve both local and national services.

We’d like to say a particularly HUGE ‘thank you’ to all the parent carers who help to run PCFs in England and for all the time you dedicate and the difference you make to families of children and young people with SEND – especially during such a challenging year.

Want to find out more about parent carer forums and how to get involved?

Watch our video What is a Parent Carer and What do they do?, to find out more about them and how parents across England are helping improve local and national services for children with SEND.

Watch Making a Difference, Why Should I Join My Local Parent Carer Forum? to hear parent carer forum members talking about why they got involved with their local PCF and find out how to get in touch with your local parent carer forum.

Contact supports and champions parent carer participation and parent carer forums across England through our contract with the Department for Education. We lead the strategic participation consortium for parent carers and children and young people alongside the Council for Disabled Children, KIDS and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF). Find out more about how Contact supports PCFs.

Local parent carer forums and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF) – the independent national voice of parent carer forums – have done some incredible work during the pandemic to represent the experiences of families. This has included:

·         Challenging several policies like the use of clinical frailty scales and ‘do not resuscitate’ notices

·         Ensuring government lockdown guidance was amended to accommodate the needs of those with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) who needed to go out more frequently

·         Influencing guidance for schools to emphasise the need to co-produce with families

·         Making sure that some of the £1.7bn of schools catch-up funding is spent on SEND services (such as speech and language therapies) and that the government’s return to school guidance emphasised a holistic approach rather than just focusing on attendance and behaviour.

Carolyn Deveney, Head of Parent Carer Participation at Contact said: “Parent carer forums have really risen to the many challenges they have faced this year. Not only have they helped reduce isolation amongst families of children with SEND, they’ve also successfully represented their views and experiences during incredibly difficult times to demonstrate the impact of the pandemic on families in their area. They’ve held virtual coffee mornings, offered peer support, signposted to services and conducted surveys to highlight the issues  families are facing. They have also raised issues to the NNPCF and helped them influence policy and practice at a national level.”

Over 1,400 parent carers attended our first ever virtual national parent carer forums conference with the National Network of Parent Carer Forums. Part one of the conference in December included a range of workshops covering issues such as SEND Law, children and young people’s participation and SEND inspections.  And there were keynote speeches from Professor Russell Viner from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Vicky Ford MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families. Part two of the conference in March provided forums with an opportunity to hear from the SEND Review team and the NNPCF’s recommendations for the review.  The conference also reflected on what has been an incredibly difficult year for children and young people with SEND and their families, as many critical services such as schools, community health and social care services have been drastically reduced or closed during the pandemic.

What is a parent carer forum?

A parent carer forum is an organised group of parents and carers of disabled children from a local area. Their aim is to make sure that services in their area meet the needs of disabled children and their families. They do this by gathering the views of local families and by working in partnership with local authorities, education settings, health providers and other providers to highlight where local services, processes and commissioners are working well, or challenge when changes or improvements need to be made. Contact is the delivery partner of the Department for Education in supporting parent carer forums in England.

Want to find out more about parent carer forums?

Watch our video What is a Parent Carer and What do they do?, to find out more about Parent Carer Forums, parent carer participation and how parents across England are helping improve local and national services for children with SEND.

Watch Making a difference, why Should I join my local Parent Carer Forum? to hear parent carer forum members talking about why they got involved and the difference they make to children with SEND and their families.

Find out more about parent carer participation and Parent Carer Forums.