Derbyshire Parent Carer Voice – Position Statement
In 2009 Derbyshire Parent Carer Voice was initiated by a group of four professionals who were passionate about parent carers being able to influence and be involved in services across Derbyshire. This group was established following news of an initiative “Parent Participation”. A grant was available for each Local Area from Contact, previously known as Contact-a-Family. The Department for Education commissioned this organisation to distribute and monitor the grants to each area. During this time the grant was £10,000 per year.
The manager of Parent Partnership (now DIASS), CEO of Fairplay, the manager of Umbrella and the lead from the then Aiming High Team from Derbyshire County Council (DCC) applied for the original grant and went out to meet parent carers to gain views on where services could be improved. Whilst doing their own day-to-day jobs it became apparent that they needed someone to take on the running of this small service called Derbyshire Parent Forums. DCC agreed to temporarily fund a co-ordinator position to work with parent carers from around the county to form a committee which is responsible for steering funds and reaching other families in order to make a difference to services received by children and young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities.
This role began in September 2009 and quickly became a way for parent carers to meet with professionals to give their viewpoint. They quickly developed the committee and a regular newsletter and helped to direct the forums being held.
Over the years the forum became a stronger team and developed new ways of communicating with parent carers and influencing working ways with the Local Authority, Health and the Voluntary Sector. A second co-ordinator was employed on a temporary basis to support the work of the forum and to reduce pressure on parent carers who volunteered their time to support the forum.
Through this method the now Derbyshire Parent Carer Voice was able to establish views in the form of surveys and report back to the relevant service in order to support progressive change for families. Over time this was developed further. All feedback from parent carers is provided within the appendices to the reports in order to ensure that all feedback is captured. There was less demand for meeting professionals face-to-face at the forum meetings and so it was decided that training and workshops would be more beneficial to parent carers. In order to fulfil the grant obligations, parent carers were asked to complete a short survey which would feed into a report giving their views, opinions and suggestions to the current survey.
In 2016, with a strong team of parent carers, Derbyshire Parent Carer Voice became a charity which strengthened the distance of the forum from the Local Authority. Funds were put into a bank account under the charity’s name rather than being held by DCC. Derbyshire Parent Carer Voice is governed by Charity Commission.
Questions we are regularly asked include:
- Why are co-ordinators funded by the Local Authority?
- Where does the Derbyshire Parent Carer Voice (DPCV) money come from?
- What are DPCV’s policies and procedures?
- How impartial is DPCV?
The answers to these questions are detailed below. If you have any more questions, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- DPCV co-ordinator/s have been funded by the Local Authority from the time when Parent Carer Forums were first established to ensure there was a viable group for establishing the forums and bringing sustainability for the forum to progress, i.e. for it to develop into a charity. However, the amount of work that is carried out by the charity would not be sustainable with only volunteers and therefore the information given to and sought from parent carers would not be as effective without co-ordinators. As a contribution to the forum, DCC has continued with the co-ordinator contract for the last nine years, and, as requested by the charity’s trustees, DCC has paid for a second co-ordinator to support the workload over the last two years.Why has the contribution been made in terms of staff and not in terms of money? This question has been raised before. Firstly, due to different funding streams it could be taken away very quickly. The original “pot of money” that paid for the co-ordinator no longer exists which means if the co-ordinator’s position was not a paid worker the funding would have ended in 2011 and it would not have been received by the forum. Secondly, the funding the forum receives for parent participation would not cover a paid worker. Thirdly, if funding was gained elsewhere for a paid member of staff it would create further work in payroll, pension and cover, etc and finally, DCC only deals with pay but they have to provide working equipment and office space. All duties are carried out with the trustees’ agreement and acknowledgement to ensure the role of DPCV co-ordinators is fulfilled.
- Before becoming a charity (2009-March 2016), all monies from Contact (then Contact-a-Family) for parent participation went into the Local Authority’s bank account. This was ring-fenced and is strictly monitored invoice by invoice (or receipt) by Contact to ensure all monies paid out are in line with the information set out in the grant application. In April 2016, DPCV set up their own bank account in preparation for becoming a charity. Monies spent are approved by the Chair, Vice Chair or Treasurer and larger amounts are minuted, approved or declined in Management Meetings where most trustees are present. Becoming a charity opened the doors for further funding, for example, Health and Wellbeing Days for parent carers. DPCV has also received additional funding from DIASS and the Local Authority to train four trustees to become IPSEA Level 1 trained so that they feel confident to challenge the Local Authority and Health services.
- DPCV has its own set of policies and procedures which are followed as a forum. DPCV also has its own insurances as the forum is a separate entity to DCC. Most of the DPCV information is on the website; the website is in the process of being updated as some of the information is a little out of date.
- DPCV challenges the Local Authority and encourages parent carers to constructively use their voice to make changes to services, give feedback on experiences, etc. DPCV has trustees sitting on many of the decision-making boards, particularly DCC-led boards but our intention is also to be more involved with health. We use surveys such as Survey Monkey to gain views of parent carers who are unable to attend our events and share the report on our website; a copy of which is also given to the relevant authority.
What we aim to do:
- Involve parents in service planning and decision making, so that services meet the needs of families with children with Special Needs and disabilities. Resources are then not wasted on services which parents and families do not take up.
- Identify problems that are frequently experienced by families and use this information to influence service provision. Parent Forums do not help parents/carers with individual problems, but can signpost to people who can.
- Ensure that effective parent participation is happening by allowing parents to have conversations with and work alongside professionals, in order to design, develop and improve services. This partnership benefits everyone.
In 2008/2009, following a successful bid for a Parent Participation Grant, forums were set up across the county. They are held three times a year across Derbyshire.
Each forum discusses different issues relevant to their community and invites decision-making professionals to come to talk to them to suit their need.
Issues and suggestions are taken back by the professionals to put forward change to better suit service users.
There are also county-wide events. In March 2013 a health and social care event was held in Alfreton and in October parents and professionals got together to look at how government reform of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will be implemented in Derbyshire from September 2014.
In September 2009 Lisa Hodgson was appointed as parent forum co-ordinator to concentrate specifically on parent participation at all levels.
A Parent Forums Steering Group was also set up. This is attended by:
- Invited proffesionals from organisation such as Fairplay, Umbrella, Derbyshire Disability Sport, Derbyshire Information Adivice and Support Serivce, Aiming High, Derbyshire Carers Association and Derbyshire County Council.
Parents and carers on the Steering Group are part of many decision-making groups and boards, including:
- Disability Sports
- Derbyshire County Council’s Disabled Children’s Reference Group (formally known as the Disabled Children’s Planning Group)
- DCC’s Disabled Children’s Commissioning Group
- Autism Pathways
- DCC decision-making panels (when requested) and also the Regional Parent Carer Network linked to the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF).
- A group of parents has been meeting regularly with Chris Tilley, Derbyshire County Council’s acting assistant director of education, to help with a recent local review of the service and to highlight any ongoing concerns.
Forum Policy and Procedures