National Network of Parent Carer Forums

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Myth-busting

What we don’t do

 

We’re not in a fight

We believe that talking to people in a robust and direct, yet respectful, way is the most effective way for the NNPCF to get government to understand our points.

Because of our ethos of co-production, we don’t believe that confrontational or aggressive tactics are the right way for the NNPCF to operate. However, we respect the rights of other groups to work in different ways.

We don’t directly provide services to families

Our primary purpose is not to support parents directly or provide them with services. In fact, we believe this would be a conflict of interest because our role is to be honest about the effectiveness of all services that families use and need. If we are delivering these services, it would compromise our ability to be critical.

We’re not a protest group

We believe that sitting down with the people that make decisions and robustly explaining our positions is the most effective way for the NNPCF to further our aims. Coproduction is at the heart of our ethos.

Moreover, since 2016, the government contracts do not allow charities and groups that directly receive government funding to use that money to campaign.

However, we can support campaign groups that share our policy goals and work alongside them to inform some of their work and can share their information to our members without endorsing this. For example, we do this with groups like the Disabled Children’s Partnership and with the Special Educational Consortium.

We also support the right of parents and carers to have a voice outside of parent carer forums. We know that our approach isn’t for everyone and we encourage families to have their say in the way that works for them.

We don’t advocate individual cases

We do not take on individual cases. However, we are very interested in individual stories because if we start hearing about families with similar experiences, this often leads to a larger national issue down the line. By listening to anecdotal evidence we are able to highlight issues long before official statistics show a problem. We regularly share your stories with people who make decisions to illustrate national themes and concerns.

 

We’re not in the pocket of local or national government

We receive funding from the Department for Education but one condition of that funding is that we remain fiercely independent. Our views and our positions are determined by the lived experience of raising a child or young person with SEND and we do not shirk from giving Ministers, officials, advisers, judges and regulators difficult messages.

Local authorities are required to sign the Department for Education grant form for local Parent Carer Forums. The does not mean that the local authority “controls” the local forum. Quite the opposite, this is meant as a commitment that they recognise the role of the parent carer forum in co-producing with them and that they commit to coproducing with them. Now, we recognise that this does not always happen and Contact, who administer the grants on behalf of the DfE work hard with local authorities and forums to help build the right co-productive relationship.

And, at the end of the day, all members of our members are first and foremost parents and carers. Like all parents, we would never do anything that we felt was in any way detrimental to our wonderful children.

We don’t take curtain calls and brag about our successes

We believe that change happens when a chorus of voices raises the same issues with people who make decisions. We work with other organisations including charities and professional bodies and we believe that working in partnership is the most effective way to improve the lives of children and young people with SEND.

At the NNPCF, we are very proud of our successes but we don’t brag about them. For example, we were instrumental in the vision for co-production embedded in the Children and Families Act, we argued for more holistic regulation that led to the joint Ofsted / CQC Local Area Inspection framework. We also told the DfE that financial support for the SEND reforms to local areas had to continue after the end of the implementation phase but we know that other partners were giving the same messages from different perspectives.

What we do

We listen

We work very hard to hear the view of parent carers. Each of our local forums hold many local meetings a year and last year we held over 60 regional meetings to listen to what parent carers are saying. At our conference, over 200 parent carers came together and discussed themes that had been chosen by them. Through this work we speak face to face with many thousands of parent carers each year.

We have very active social media platforms where we share successes and issues and we integrate these messages into our work. We also run a number of surveys each year to gather evidence on those areas that are the biggest priorities for our members.

 

 

We develop clear policy positions

We take all this information and use it to develop policy positions for the NNPCF. We take the different messages, stories and data we get and distil them into clear positions or “talking points”. We try to draw out the big, national themes and illustrate them with local examples. However, this doesn’t mean that every local problem is picked up by the NNPCF. We have to concentrate on those issues that the most forums are raising with us. You can find a list of our current priorities here [link to our talking points] which we believe are very representative of the biggest issues being faced by families living with SEND across the country.

 

 

We represent these positions to people who make decisions

Once we have understood the priorities of our members, we figure out who we need to raise them with in order to make a difference. We map our priorities to the people that can influence them and we go and see them. We do this through organising one to one meetings with Ministers, regular meetings with advisers and officials, sharing ideas with charities and national associations, and by attending national boards and working groups. For example, our membership told us that employment opportunities for young people with SEND was an issue and we have developed links with the Department for Work and Pensions disability employment strategy team. Likewise, our membership told us of many issues about how they work with local authority services and we have developed links with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services in response.

 

We feedback on what we have said and what we have heard

It is essential that our membership knows what we are doing and what we have heard. We feedback to them so that they can understand how what they are saying to us shapes the work we do.

We feedback through a variety of means. We post updates on our website [link to the news page], we post on our social media groups, we produce a joint bulletin magazine with Contact each term, we hold regular regional meetings to brief members face to face, we produce an annual report [link to annual report] and we hold an annual conference each year.