Parent carer forums in action: Playtime for all children in Bedfordshire

3 mins read

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Tags: parent carer forums, parent participation, parent participation matters month

As part of our Parent Participation Matters month this February we’re sharing some of the work parent carer forums do across England and the difference they’re making.

Bedford Borough Parent Carer Forum (BBPCF) tackled a community challenge head-on: the lack of accessible playparks for local families. Families told the forum that they were forced to venture out of the county to find inclusive and safe play-areas for their children.

“We need more awareness in all our communal areas (parks, shops). People look at us like we don’t belong because my child screams and looks different to their own child. Education and awareness are needed everywhere.”

BBPCF seized an opportunity when Bedford Borough Council’s Mayor’s Fund offered grants and successfully secured £100,000 to refurbish a playpark, turning it into a welcoming and inclusive space for children with special educational needs and disabilities of all ages. BBPCF collaborated with the local authority to co-produce the transformation over the course of a year starting with signage to raise awareness of SEND and then installing a wheelchair accessible roundabout, trampoline and a sensory garden.

“Genuinely so excited about this.  I have 2 wheelchair users.  The idea they can go to a playpark and play together is amazing – something I never imagined they would do.  Thank you.”

What difference has this made to local families?

The finished playground, which celebrated its first year last September, not only caters for diverse needs it has also become a symbol of community inclusion. Families who previously felt they had no choice to look outside the county for a place where their child could play, now feel included and there is better understanding amongst the community of SEND families lived experience. Co-production has resulted in a wider understanding of SEND families lived experience and provided an opportunity for them to feel listened to and included in their community.  The health and wellbeing of the parents has improved as they no longer feel vulnerable but instead feel safe and secure in a play park built for them.

The local authority uses the playpark as a model for inclusion and accessibility to any future planning and redevelopment, which promotes inclusion for all SEND families across Bedford.

Find out more about parent carer forums

Find your local parent carer forum.

Read more about what parent carer forums in England do and their impact.