In May this year, we asked ESPCF members for your thoughts on the following statement:
I feel ESPCF represents my views and experiences and works to try and improve special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services and support in East Sussex.
Of those who responded, 93% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, 5% were unsure, and 2% neither agreed nor disagreed.
We also asked for feedback about our work and what we can do better. It was lovely to receive some positive comments, and we are also very grateful for the constructive feedback about what you’d like us to improve on or change. Here are some of things you said.
It looks like you are working hard to try and improve SEND
I want to be more involved in co-developments
I am so thankful there is a group like this standing up for our children
I find the newsletters really informative and friendly
Transparency in how you are funded and who you report to
I’m not always sure exactly what you do behind the scenes
I like the temperature check and the feedback on these
The feedback about transparency in how we are funded and who we report to, and what we do on a day-to-day basis, is very useful. As you will see in our summer 2023 newsletter, we are in the early stages of redeveloping our website and one outcome will be a much-improved section on who we are and what we do. This will include funding and reporting information, as well as a dedicated page on all our workstreams which will be updated regularly.
It’s really important to us that we are open and transparent, after all, ESPCF is not ‘us’ as a staff team, it is all of us as a collective parent carer community. This includes transparency about funding. We receive funding from the Department for Education, East Sussex County Council and the NHS – as detailed further down.
It is understandable that some parent carers might worry that the forum is not independent from these services because we are partly funded by them. However, what services are paying for is our time. This includes time for arranging and carrying out engagement work, making sure parent carer reps can be paid for time in preparing for and attending meetings to represent your voices, and having a small staff team to make sure we can communicate about what’s going on, and all the day-to-day bits and pieces involved in being an effective parent carer forum (more below about what we do day-to-day).
The Department for Education will give a grant to the recognised parent carer forum in each local authority area, as part of its commitment towards coproduction with families and the importance of everyone working together to try and make things better. Additional funding from the local authority and the NHS is entirely typical for parent carer forums – it is otherwise difficult to fundraise for. Sometimes we have had specific funding for specific work, such as our engagement for the neurodevelopmental pathway family training and navigation service, which pays for Serene and Karen, our wonderful engagement workers, and some funding for family engagement around the new NHS keyworker programme.
If we apply for or accept funding, it is to enable us to do pieces of work that we believe are needed and fit within ESPCF’s priority areas of work.
ESPCF is entirely parent carer run. We are clear that our priorities are determined by what we hear from parent carers: your experiences and your feedback on what is needed to improve SEND services and support. The coproduction charter agreement which we have with East Sussex County Council and the NHS recognises our independence (we’ll share the charter with parent carers as soon as it is signed off – which is any day now) and we can assure you that we don’t say or do things differently depending on who is funding us. Of course that’s easy for us to say, but we hope this is evident in the work we do – providing robust challenge when needed and working alongside services to improve SEND support and provision.
Our funding for 2022/23 was:
- Department for Education: £17,500 (this funding is administered by the charity Contact which is a delivery partner for the DfE)
- East Sussex County Council: £20,000 for ESPCF and £20,000 for Amaze to host and support ESPCF (this includes ‘back office’ functions such as payroll and IT so we don’t need to worry about those things and can focus on the most important parts of the work – engagement and representation)
- NHS: £43,000 (this includes £20,000 for our work on the neurodevelopmental pathway, as well as funding for the keyworker project)
We produce a report on our ‘key performance indicators’ every six months which we share with the local authority. It includes categories such as the number of engagement activities we’ve run; the number of ESPCF members and representation data, e.g. type of need/disability, geographical area, educational phase and setting; and the number of meetings where parent carer representatives have had input. This report shows the local authority that ESPCF are an active parent carer forum, proactively engaging with families and ensuring representation in different pieces of work.
We produce a similar report for the NHS on our neurodevelopmental pathway work which is submitted every three months (quarterly). This includes all the feedback from our NDP events, how many people we’ve heard from, the number of places we’ve visited and geographical location. This information helps us to know if we’re hearing from a broad and diverse range of parent carers which in turn helps shape the delivery of the training and navigation service run by Amaze.
Behind the scenes
In terms of what we do on a day-to-day basis, a big chunk of time is spent attending meetings and groups. For example, in the last few weeks these have included:
- East Sussex supported employment forum
- wheelchair users forum
- keyworkers monthly review meeting
- school transition working party
- SENDIASS (special educational needs and disabilities information, advice and support service) steering group
- SEND strategy implementation group
- South East NNPCF (National Network of Parent Carer Forums) conference in London
- Emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA) working group
We’ve also been organising and running our events – there’s more about those elsewhere in our newsletter and on our news and resources page, and we also share details on our Facebook page of upcoming visits as part of our neurodevelopmental pathway work.
We receive a lot of information and queries, mainly via our info email address but also on social media which we try to respond to as quickly as possible to help support or signpost members to the right support. There is of course the more mundane but always important admin to keep on top of: writing notes, updating action logs, circulating papers etc. And at the moment, we are spending time collating and analysing all the feedback we have received across a huge range of different SEND areas, to make sure we are ready when the Ofsted & CQC inspection of East Sussex happens. This is a snapshot of what we do ‘behind the scenes’ and we’re looking forward to sharing more once our new website is up and running.
If you have any questions or feedback about anything we’ve shared here, please do get in touch. We welcome all feedback.