It has been great to see so many different parents getting involved in Parent Forum this year, in different ways. Thank you to all of you for emailing, contributing to the secret Facebook page, attending training, representing us at meetings with the Local Authority, giving your time to consultations and reviews and for generally speaking up for parents and carers in Croydon. The profile of the parent voice is growing in Croydon and you are all participating in different ways.
There are still challenges to ensure that a culture of genuine co-production is established locally and to emphasise the need to involve young people (as well as parent carers) in the design of local services and to feedback on their experiences. We are working hard to make sure this is more in evidence. As a forum we are providing constructive challenge to different areas of work within Croydon and supporting the development of greater awareness amongst the Local Authority about how to communicate with parents and carers.
In February PiP were asked if a parent rep could join a panel of residents at Croydon Council’s Leadership Conference to express both the positives and negatives of their experience of Croydon Council. The conference was originally aimed at the top leaders in the authority. However, as the input from the community representatives was so inspiring and helpful, the leaders of the council decided to extend this opportunity to “middle” managers, organising further 2 conferences. Our parent representative attended all 3 events between February and June, with approximately 350 - 400 attendees over the different days. The aims of the conference were to:
• Hear the views of our community about how we are doing
• Explore/challenge/review the LA’s perceptions of community needs and their current responses
• Engage/collaborate with internal stakeholders in conversations about the council’s priorities in service plans
We are very grateful to Vijaya Gonsalves, one of our parent reps, who spoke at all three of these conferences. PiP supported her in preparing her speech and it was inspiring to see her deliver it to a large audience in such a composed, hard hitting way. She articulated the frustrations of parents when they feel they are not being listened to, highlighting the need for better communication and more action from the Local Authority. She also emphasised that behind every ‘case’ is a real young person, who deserves to be happy.
This is some of the feedback Vijaya (and PIP) received:
‘Vijaya made such an incredible impression on the attendees and so many people stopped me to say how powerful her contribution was. I appreciate it so much that PiP were able to give their time to support Vijaya so she felt she could share such a personal story in such a large forum.’
‘A few of the people who had attended the last conference came up to say the effects and message from the last conference left a lasting mark on them and they were sharing it and trying to address the issues we raised.’
‘Three members came to me and said that they had children with special needs and what I said echoed their feelings and happiness was one of the most overlooked points in all the fights…’
‘A lady came and said no one had told them they ‘sucked’ in such a positive way.’
Since January we have held 5 monthly parent forum meetings with different guest speakers and areas of focus.
Examples of some parent forum work so far this year:
• Regular meetings with Caroline Baxter (Head of All Age 0-65 Disability Service) and Alison Farmer (Head of 0-25 SEND Service) to help set the agenda for local priorities
• PiP chairing the first Parent Reference Group which will meet quarterly (next meeting 18 September)
• Parents participating in the independent review of the 0-25 SEND service January 2018
• School/nursery visits to SENCOs and parents to offer support, information and encouragement to develop collective and individual parent voice
• Parent forum member speaking at 3 Leadership Conferences as part of a Residents Panel (see above)
• Attending quarterly steering group meetings with south west cluster of NNPCF
• Attending 2 events about strengthening Health partnerships, organised by the NNPCF, NHS England and Council for Disabled Children
• Joining the Children’s Health steering group in Croydon in July
• Running a training session on developing skills as parent reps in May
• Drafting a booklet about reasonable adjustments in educational settings for production in Autumn 2017
• Starting work on the new Local Offer and proposed EHCP online hub
• Reviewing the post-16 prospectus
Some areas of focus for parent forum over the next academic year:
• Establishing an autism pathway in collaboration with Health partners
• Preparation for adulthood
• Improving quality and delivery of EHC plans
• A rolling programme of school visits to engage with parent carers
• Training in facilitation skills
• Improving communication between the Local Authority and parents, including development of new Local Offer
Everyone is welcome. You don’t need to be present to participate.
Meeting notes, agendas and items for discussion are circulated by email and you are welcome to feed in comments, questions and ideas by email or by phone.