National Network of Parent Carer Forums

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Coproduction and campaigning – a guidance document

August 9, 2018

Contact and the NNPCF have coproduced a guidance document to help parent carer forums in working alongside campaign groups.

It can be really challenging in the current landscape where funding restrictions are threatening services that our families rely on whilst trying to work closely with local area partners to improve these services. A Parent Carer Forums primary role is to enable improved participation for parent carers of children and young people with SEND in their communities. They can achieve this through engagement and community based participation, as well as by being the representative group that support strategic participation locally.

The nature of the DfE participation grant that one Parent Carer Forum from each local authority area can access does restrict the way that forums can operate to an extent. Parent Carer Forums are not permitted to participate in campaigning activity as a forum, or partake in political activity, as this is not permitted by any recipients of central government funding. It is important to highlight that whilst there are some restrictions and criteria that need to met to satisfy the grant conditions, all Parent Carer Forums will operate in different ways. This adds another level of complexity as one size approach will not fit all forums needs. This is, however, to the benefit of forums. Having the flexibility to operate in a way that works for your community, being able to adapt to meet their needs, or to change your process/methods/structure to grow and improve your forum is great. This does mean that there are many reasons why forums may choose to engage or to distance themselves from local campaigns or campaign groups. It is also important that we recognise and respect these decisions as we, the NNPCF and wider communities, cannot assume to know why these decisions have been taken without asking questions first.

We recognise that there is a need for many different representative groups across local areas, and that for some people the local Parent Carer Forum is not always the way they want to engage. We encourage Parent Carer Forums to work alongside these groups where possible and to develop relationships where you can identify collaboration opportunities and support each others efforts.

However, we do need to recognise that sometimes the efforts of other groups can be in conflict with our own goals or methodology. This will mean that sharing information of each others progress or even trying to establish a line of communication can be really tricky. We cannot assume that we will get this balance right all of the time, nor can we expect that all representative groups will have shared ethos, objectives, or methodologies which can make developing relationships hard. There is no special trick to getting this right or to making it work, relationships are a two way street and each party will need to recognise, respect, and accept the others way of operating if they want to work in compliment of each other or simply support their communities better together. This does not mean that you have to work together for all groups to be successful or to achieve their goals, and it is just as important to recognise when you cannot work with another group and are better off taking your own individual approaches.

We hope that this document offers some help to you when trying to understand where campaign groups and Parent Carer Forums can work together and how to achieve this. We hope to build on these resources as we learn from our members how they have worked with other representative groups in their areas.

If you have further questions, please email us on info@nnpcf.org.uk or contact your Regional Contact Participation Advisor or Regional NNPCF Steering Group Member.