Guest blogpost written by Coralie Cross, Chair of Lincolnshire Parent Carer Forum and a parent of a child with a disability.
With many local authorities continuously facing overspends and budget cuts, High Needs is an area that is both emotive and challenging. In many counties, difficult budget decisions have resulted in an adversarial culture between parents, schools and local authorities. Whilst we were fortunate that we have generally had good relationships between ourselves and the county, the work with IMPOWER has really strengthened and deepened this trust. The Lincolnshire Parent Carer Forum was set up in 2007 and represents over 2000 parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Working alongside the local authority and health service, we were tasked by the Department for Education to improve the provision of services in Lincolnshire. We do this by collecting the views of our membership and representing them at meetings of service providers.
IMPOWER has been working closely with Lincolnshire County Council and Lincolnshire Parent Carer Forum to transform the lives of children with additional needs in Lincolnshire.
IMPOWER has had a massive impact on the culture change across the local area and also between the local authority and with the forum. They have given us confidence to challenge and have a voice in decision making and have helped to strengthen trust and confidence between the council and forum.
Co-production has been built into every stage of the work – a way of working that all parent carer forums aspire to. IMPOWER has also helped to embed this co-produced approach throughout the local authority and with partners – from the initial analysis and design phases, through to implementation and review.
We are incredibly proud of the impact we have achieved together. Some early impact we are seeing for families on the ground includes:
- Increased satisfaction in the service – parents have more trust in the service, are submitting fewer complaints and leaving more positive messages on Facebook.
- Parents feel involved and listened to on all aspects of change as they have been involved from the start of the process.
- Children are getting support earlier – for example the introduction of a new needs framework, called ‘Valuing SEND’ is helping understand need earlier – and the new SEND advice line as really strengthened confidence in earlier support.
- The culture of an education health and care plan (EHCP) as a ‘golden ticket’ is slowly changing and parents are becoming more confident that mainstream schools have the tools at hand to help them.
- Valuing SEND has also opened up conversations with parents as partners throughout their child’s journey and we are now more focused on outcomes.
- A collaborative and co-productive approach which wasn’t as strong before
I have been really impressed with the IMPOWER team; not only do they have clear strengths and aspirations, but they have invested time and effort in building relationships across the forum – which has really built confidence and a positive, collaborative approach.
Most importantly, the real winner of our work will be children with SEND in Lincolnshire. And that’s exactly how it should be.