How parent carer forums have risen to the challenge during the pandemic

Monday 12 April 2021

Tags: Covid-19, parent carer forums, parent participation

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.