VIEW FROM THE CHAIR
So another year has passed in the life of FACT Bucks and in preparing for our Annual Meeting I have been struck by both the number and variety of areas of work we have been asked to be involved with. Whilst some parent carer forums struggle to find anywhere to make their voice heard, our struggle is to ensure that we have enough parent carers willing and able to take up the opportunities offered to us.
In 2015-16, at least one FACT Bucks representative attended 154 meetings with County and/or other Local Area partners. We held two day events – on transitions and mental health; we were present at 4 open meetings of Healthwatch Bucks; the County SENDCO conference, as well as other county and area specific events run by partners where parent carers were invited. We have co-chaired a Parent Advisory group for Short Breaks; the Local Offer Advisory Group and the SENDIAS Steering Group.
Whilst we are not set up as a campaigning body, we made representation on behalf of parent carers against the budget cuts to children’s and short breaks services within the County Budget and against the actions of the County’s retained SEND legal firm. In both cases we have sought, even in these sensitive areas, to make our concerns known in a constructive way, with the aim of improving outcomes for Children and Young People. Whilst the budget cuts did proceed, we have been assured that in future we will be asked to contribute to the discussion on budgets at an earlier stage. There will also be a review of tribunal procedures in the coming year.
The reforms may have come into effect in September 2014 but for many parent carers they have still to become evident. This is due both to the staggered process for transfers from Statements to EHC plans, as well as the impact that the increase in workload has placed on County and other professionals leading to delays in achieving the person centred, outcome focused process that all those engaged with it are committed to achieving. We will be working with SENDIAS in the coming year to obtain feedback from parents who have experienced the transfer process in order to work with the SEND team to improve its operation in the years ahead.
In all these areas, we seek to offer the perspective of the parent carer; to ensure that the language that is used is parent friendly; that policies are fair and transparent; and that information flows in an effective and helpful manner.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2015-16
Understanding Mental Health
For many parent carers, the additional needs of our children and young people manifest themselves in their mental health. Whilst physical conditions can be more pronounced and immediate, conditions deriving from or relating to mental health present some considerable challenges not only for the child or young person but for the carers and the wider family. We were very fortunate to have secured a key note address from Professor Samuel Stein (a Consultant in Child, Adolescent and Family Psychiatry) who presented an accessible (and fun) guide to the elements of mental health in young people and the approaches that can be used to offer help and support. All the parents who attended felt empowered to seek the support they need and better placed to build stronger families for their SEND young people.
The development of a parent focused training course on Outcomes which has been devised by a parent consultant using parent participation at every stage that we initiated in 2014-15, has now been completed. During this year over 120 parents have participated in the course and the material developed is already in demand from professionals and schools. The ongoing delivery of the training will be overseen by SENDIAS (as training falls outside our area of activity) but we remain a partner in the ongoing development to ensure that it remains a tool for parents wanting to fully participate in the conversations determining the outcomes identified for their children and young people, as well as the determination of the resources required to achieve them. Details of the courses for autumn 2016 can be found on the website.
Engagement with Health
Whilst our relationship with County colleagues has been developing over many years, we have had limited opportunities with health service providers to develop similar dialogue and engagement. During the last year, we have worked with colleagues in the joint County/Clinical Commissioning Groups, to develop dialogue in areas such as CAMHS, Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy. We engaged fully with the Designated Clinical Officer trial post and look forward to a full time appointment. We have also participated in the open meetings of Healthwatch Bucks (the patient forum for the County) and made a presentation on SEND CYP experiences of mental health support to influence their 2016-17 priority of seeking improvement in this area.
The recommissioning of CAMHS in 2014/15 was a highlight reported this time last year and since that time the new contract has come into operation. We are beginning to see a change to initial contact and care pathways and we are working to develop a Parent Advisory Group.
Transition to Adulthood
We held an information event in June to give parent carers the opportunity to answer questions about the future for their children when they are adults. We have and continue to be actively involved in these developments, including the development of a more parent friendly pathway guide.
Home to School Transport
The contracts for transport have been tendered and revisions made in an attempt to ensure value for money whilst meeting the needs of SEND CYP. A Parent Advisory Group for Transport is being developed to provide county staff with the feedback on services which they commission but do not deliver directly. In addition, a pilot for a personal budget for home to school transport has also been a developing area and it will be initiated in certain test schools in the autumn.
Our membership database shows that ASD and related conditions form a substantial contingent among the families with whom we have contact. In the light of which it is great to know that the Partnership Board is committed to co-production and we have three active parent carer members. It has now been agreed that there needs to be a strategy for CYP Autism that links to the existing Adult one and covers key areas such as pathway to diagnosis; early intervention; and a transition passport. We have a member on the Steering Group and in the autumn there will be further opportunities for wider parent carer input into these discussions reflecting the breadth of experiences.
Inspection of the Local Area
From May 2016, every local authority area will, within the next five years, be subject to an inspection by OFSTED and the CQC in relation to its work to improve the outcomes of SEND CYP. This is an inspection of the local area not just the Local Authority and it will involve parent carers. We are members of the project group that has developed a readiness statement and related action plan. The reforms introduced in 2014 require a considerable shift in practice, outlook and coordination and they will take time to embed. We have developed the readiness statement and action plan as a clear guide to the work we are committed to, regardless of the timing of any inspection.
You Too Can Help
We are always happy to receive offers of help and those willing to be involved in any of our ongoing coproduction or participation work will receive training. However, as parent carers we are busy but there are many ways you can help make our voice stronger.
1. Become a Member
If you fill in the membership form and have a subsequent telephone chat with our Membership coordinator at a time to suit, you will be able to provide us with another family’s perspective.
2. Complete a Survey
We are always being asked for feedback on key services and processes. Most surveys can be completed online or in paper and are designed to take very little time. However, they are vital to future developments. Currently we have surveys on:
- Transfers from statements
- Experiences of Tribunals
We hold a monthly coffee morning on a Thursday morning in Princes Risborough and weekday evening meetings in other parts of the County as resources allow. These Forums aim to provide information and gain feedback on key developments.
We also hold periodic events to consider service changes or test new systems – these are one off tasks – could you help with:
- Commenting on the revisions to the provision of therapies?
- Providing feedback on the transfer from Statements to EHC Plans?
Chair FACT Bucks