South Tyneside Stronger Together have had one of our most successful years to date, but South Tyneside Council only want to hear success stories of their work, so it looks like they are working in partnership with parents and carers and being successful in doing so. For when Ofsted and Care Quality Commission revisit in their follow up to the Joint SEND Inspection which took place in the summer of 2019. But they have systematically wanted to take out independent views that challenge their objectives and they have succeeded by saying that they have not had any positive impact with the former Parent Carer Forum known as South Tyneside Stronger Together, but this is just not true, they have had one of their most successful years to date, helping to implement new services in more than one area.
Following the forum being dissolved by Contact, which goes against their Constitution in favour of employing 2 Parent Engagement Workers within the local authority. These two new members of local authority staff will be setting up a new Parent Carer Mental Health Peer Support Group, so that the council can control only positive outcomes in house within the local authority, which is NOT independent at all!!
South Tyneside Stronger Together have represented the voices of the parents and carers from a totally independent viewpoint, representing at the Transport Meetings to restructure and streamline the home to school transport forms and service.
They have attended the Transition Meetings hosted by Healthwatch and Preparing for Adulthood meetings hosted by Public Health England to provide a parents voice on behalf of SEN children and young people for what they want to see in place during their transitions in school, college and their independence.
They have been involved in the Volunteer Co-ordinators Group where they network with other key agencies representing families of children and young people with SEN. They helped to put in place the Volunteer Passport where volunteers can add to their portfolio of voluntary experience and port it from one voluntary position to another.
They were involved in the helping to shape the Trailblazer Project that produced the Healthy Minds Team where counsellors work in all South Tyneside Schools providing low level counselling intervention. They were involved in the Adult Autism Group.
They helped to shape the Autism Hub, after reporting that parents and carers have nowhere to turn once they received an Autism diagnosis. The Autism Hub provides 1:1 support, group support, training and information sessions to help families of children and young people with Autism and other learning disabilities.
The parent carer forum have attended the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Alliance with head of services across all local hospitals, as well as local support services. Kooth was an outcome from this group and is an online counselling service with instant access for children and young people 11-25 year old. It is confidential, but the user can speak to a qualified counsellor for at least 6 sessions. It is accessible at home or school.
They were also involved in the SEND Strategy Group and instrumental in rewriting the SEND Ranges from a SEND Parent point of view. Ranges go from 1 to 7 based on the level of support that is need for the child/young person and is graded on their social, emotional needs as well as their education needs. They are a helpful tool used to define the level of support written into an Education Health and Care Plan. More training is coming up from schools and parents on the Ranges, because they are an effective tool when they are used correctly.
Also from this parent carer forum came the Teen Life course a follow on from Early Bird Plus for parents of teenagers with an ASD diagnosis because navigating the teenage years is hard for any parent and child its magnified for parents of children with additional needs. The forum highlighted the need for this course at this group and submitted a proposal. It took a year, but it came out the other end.
They were involved in the Send Improvement Board which is a group which was set up as a direct result of the written statement of action following the Joint SEND Inspection. Its aim is to oversee the working groups and do 'deep dives' of the main themes. This is attended by heads of service, Head Teachers and members of the Parent Carer Forum to improve good practice and improve all of the factors mentioned in the written statement of action, namely:
* Ensure that families are partners in designing and delivering services (a) Assess current participation with families (b) Develop a programme of engagement events (c) Develop the peer group network (d) Support Stronger Together as a voice for families
* Embed the principles and practice of coproduction across the local area. Put in place standards and resources for coproduction, launch and train.
* Families will have access to high quality information and advice (a) A refreshed SENDIASS offering timely personalised advice (b) High quality accessible Local Offer and (c) Support Stronger Together to provide information and advice to families.
These 3 issues above were the first edition of the written statement of action from September 2019, however this has been updated to a much more verbose statement, which is difficult to parents to understand. They put together a Co-production pledge and asked members from education, health and social care to sign this to hold them to account and be fully transparent and accountable. They took the document away for analysis, but they never heard anything else since. They asked for funding to reach out to the hard to reach groups like the BME community and the LGBTQ representatives in our community. They said they would think about it. That was at the February 2020 meeting. They haven’t heard back from them.
They have been involved in helping to shape the Local Offer of activities and services on offer online for families of children and young adults with additional needs in South Tyneside. This group’s aim is to make the local offer more accessible to parents and make sure it is up to date, relevant and known about.
They were involved in the interview process for the first two rounds of interviews for the Participation and Engagement Officers- SEND, South Tyneside Council but they were unsuccessful. The irony of this is that one of the two appointments was the author of the South Tyneside Stronger Together Survey Report which gave an overall negative response of lack of support across education, health and care during lockdown and the home schooling process of educating families with SEN pupils. It was wrongly assumed that South Tyneside Stronger Together put this survey report together, but this was not the case. They did construct the survey but not the report, which was not well received by the local authority at all.
By keeping the parent participation in-house within the council it would seem, that they wish to be in control of everything that is being published about parent/carer involvement, to ensure it is positive and supportive of the local authorities objectives. The parent carer forum were working from an independent viewpoint and in full co-production with the local authority and Clinical Commissioning Group in line with the written statement of action from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission to improve these issues, so how they say they were not productive, is simply NOT true!!
AGM – October 2020
Both of our contacts at the local authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) gave presentations on feedback on the joint SEND Inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. Rachael have a presentation and updated everyone on what the parent carer forum have been involved in over the last year. Fiona produced an annual report and gave it to everyone. Fiona gave a brief presentation on expenditure at each activity and event and what was left for the rest of the financial year. This AGM was very well attended with over 20 of our existing members and a few new ones. They got 5 or 6 new members from this event, two of which went on our Steering Group Committee, namely Karen Clachar and Debra Mason.
Let’s Talk Leisure – March 2019
They invited key partners involved in leisure to get together to discuss what is working well in South Tyneside and what needs to be improved. They talked about the list of activities available now and what they would like to see introduced in the borough. The top 3 things being SEN dedicated swimming sessions, more SEN soft play sessions and wheelchair swings in public parks. Whilst these are still work in progress, which they will need to meet again to discuss, the council have been working on providing wheelchair access at the beach. Following this event, the gentleman in charge of sporting activities at South Tyneside Council, Alex D’Ambrosie, got in touch to provide a list of sports and activities at community centres across South Tyneside which were circulated to the parents and carers on our database and shared on our Facebook page.
SEND Service Conference – October 2019
To obtain feedback from parents and carers on issues that are most important to them. From this event, the parents/carers said that these were the most important:
1) Getting services working better together, so it does not feel like a battle to get what you need for your child.
2) Making sure you know what help and support is available locally
3) Keeping Education, Health and Care Plans up to date, including reviews
4) Tackling long waiting lists to access services, particularly in respect to Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS) and Speech and Language services
5) Improving communications between yourselves, schools and services
6) Providing more special school places
7) Ensuring you know who to go to with any concerns about your child
They have sent out an email to see if these can be broken down to a top 3 for the parent carer forum to focus on for our action plan for 2020/21.
This would enable them to plan for the work that they intend to work on in the Community Area Forum meetings, to gather parents and carers views and recruit new members. From this event, they got 27 new members.
Perth Green Community Centre, Jarrow
Hadrian Primary School, South Shields
Hedworth Lane Primary School, Boldon
Clervaux Exchance, Jarrow
They held coffee mornings in local schools for the parents to ask questions and give feedback to us about what they wanted to change. Leisure was a particular theme that came up at these events, as well as training around the SEND Ranges, which is a document they co-produced with the local authority as part of the Stronger Together Strategy, which is a co-production document. This gives a range of educational, social, emotional and health requirements a child needs from 1 to 6, with one being mild to minimal support and 6 being severe and intensive support in a specialist provision.
Volunteer Recruitment Fair (September 2019)
World Mental Health Day (October 2019)
Blue Monday (February 2020)
Health and Theyllbeing Event (March 2020)
All events are to host stands with our A5 promotional leaflet, business cards and membership forms to gather new members and promote awareness of the Parent Carer Forum in South Tyneside. Network with other agencies where they can support each other to gain new members each way. They attend these events to obtain new members for our database. Promote awareness of who the parent carer forum is and what they do to provide information, advice and guidance to parents and carers of children and young people with SEN.
Positive Behaviour Support Training* (April 2019) – Output awarded certificates
Autism, Challenging Behaviour and Pathological Demand Avoidance Training (May 2019)
IPSEA Training (June 2019)
To raise knowledge and awareness to help the committee of the parent carer forum provide best practice, in terms of information, advice and guidance to the parents and carers they represent. With some training*, they received an accredited certificate from the Association of Psychological Therapies (APT).
To raise knowledge and awareness to help us to provide best practice, in terms of information, advice and guidance to the parents and carers they represent. With some training*, they received an accredited certificate from the Association of Psychological Therapies (APT).