Guest blogpost by Carol Kelsey, Coordinator – HPCI, Herts Parent Carer Involvement
In Hertfordshire, IMPOWER’s Valuing SEND programme demonstrated the right values from the outset by involving parents through parent carer forums. Families are at the sharp end of austerity, but can also offer many creative ideas around reducing process and therefore cost.
While the ‘value’ in Valuing SEND refers to focusing on outcomes and better understanding the links between children’s needs and the financial resources available, parents also want to ensure their children are recognised for the value that they bring to society – which is why they bring such an important perspective to these forums.
I still believe that the 2014 SEND reforms were the right reforms, but they were launched at the wrong time and implementation was flawed. There was not enough emphasis on changing the culture, particularly around the relationship between families and education, social care and health services, and too much emphasis placed on counting what could be counted. We are still seeing a predominantly process-driven culture that, through a combination of factors, has become more adversarial – not less.
In the Valuing SEND programme, parent representatives have been involved in early discussions, producing and refining the model and – crucially – adding the family needs element. Initially, the emphasis was on how the tool can be used with children and young people with the most complex needs. However, as the project progressed, we realised it has something much more fundamental to offer.
The tool has, at its core, a simple visual representation of a child or young person’s needs that is easier to relate to than the usual wordy documents that parents are faced with. Being able to clearly see the child’s needs alongside the readiness of settings and families to meet those needs provides a great starting point for an open conversation. If professionals then also have the right approach and skills to engage effectively with the parents, you have all you need to help get relationships off to a good start.
We see this tool having as much to offer at SEN Support level – from building a positive relationship and common understanding, to building a picture of needs over time and (most importantly) providing data that can be aggregated to inform planning and decision making at a strategic level.