06 July 2021
By Lisa Coffman – Treasurer and Co-ordinator at the Barnet Parent Carer Forum
A Complex Need Panel. It sounds like an august group of people, deciding on the future of your loved one, sitting in secret. I’m sure that this has been the case in the past. But now, parents and carers now sit on the Complex Needs Panel here in Barnet. And they are given an equal say in determining the outcome of decisions. These are vital decisions because it’s about the challenging issues involved in applications for Education and Health Care Plan (EHCPs) and the level of support and funding associated with them.
And it makes the whole thing a lot less ‘Them and us’. We are a voluntary group of enthusiastic, committed parents and carers in Barnet working with local leaders to ensure that the voices of our children, young people and their families are heard. Of course, there is plenty that everyone can do to make lives better in the borough, but at least co-production is being embraced. That means that the voice of local people is being listened to; and acted on.
Here are just three examples of where co-production is going on locally:
- A parent / carer is now a director on the board of the Education and Learning Service
- Our conferences are co-produced and agendas and speakers mutually agreed
- We have parent/carer representation and input on each of the local authority workstreams including social, emotional and mental health; Autism; Special Education Needs support; and preparing for adulthood.
Co-production and consultation
There are several other areas, from working with mental health services to drawing up local strategies, where co-production is taking place. One area I’d really like to talk about, though, is with surveys. A survey or a consultation can be useful to the powers-that-be, but we try to make sure parent / carers help draft the content of the local ones before they circulated. This means that the right questions are asked and it follows that there’s a higher likelihood of a better response from the people asked to complete it. The parent / carers are the ‘experts by experience’ and so it’s absolutely vital that they are involved at this early stage.
Parents and Carers of children and young people with special educational needs have a great deal of knowledge and expertise and it is hugely important that this is used to inform and improve the decisions being taken by those who develop and provide services for them. Let’s hope that our relationship with commissioners and providers continues, using co-production to guide the conversation.