Rotherham Parent Carers Forum was set up in 2009 by a small group of parents who all had children with a variety of disabilities. They were feeling incredibly isolated and struggling to navigate the world of Special Educational Needs. They came together to initially offer each other some peer support and as their numbers grew they started to realise that as parents and carers in Rotherham there is a vital role to be played in shaping and developing services available to children.
The group believed that parents are the experts on their child, are the primary teachers (educators) of their children, meet the needs of their children on a daily basis and see and experience difficulties encountered from gaps in services and that by coming together and sharing their knowledge and experience, they could then work with those who provide services for disabled children and their families and share this information to help plan and improve the quality, range and accessibility of services for all disabled children and their families in Rotherham. Partnership working with Health, Education and Social Care creates a culture that ensures families are at the heart of policy that affects them whilst realistically creating the best possible outcomes with the resources available in Rotherham.
We became an official parent carer forum in 2010 with the release of government funding from the Department for Education (DfE) and were supported by Contact a Family who are the contracted delivery partner for the DfE in supporting parent carer participation in England. We formed part of the Yorkshire and Humber parent forum and this led to the development of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF). The aim of these Networks is to ensure that good practice, knowledge and shared expertise about parent participation continues to grow and strengthen, and to develop a cohesive and coherent structure to sustain and develop the effectiveness of parent carer forums across England, individually and as a collective voice. The NNPCF membership is made up of Parent Carer Forums of which there is one in almost every local authority area in England. Each parent carer forum in receipt of the Department of Education participation grant is a member of the NNPCF.
In 2012 the forum became a registered charity and since then has continued to grow and move from strength to strength. We have secured service level agreements with both RMBC and RCCG and are recognised as a strategic partner. We currently employ 12 workers, all of whom are parent carers who have moved back into employment and we have over 1000 Rotherham families on our database who access our activities, give mutual support and have the opportunity to share their voice and experience feeding into local strategy.
The forum is a lifeline to many families and unique in that we don't just represent parents and carers, we are parents and carers which gives us a particular empathy and understanding of the challenges that families of children with SEND face.
How we make a difference
Rotherham Parent Carers Forum was founded to provide a role in identifying and expressing the voice and experience of parents and carers of children and young people aged 0 to 25 around special educational needs and disability, ensuring participation and engagement and providing information and support to those parents and carers, whilst having a pivotal role in shaping the services families receive based on experience.
Today we are proud to say that our membership is growing weekly, empowering parents and carers to work alongside Health and Local Authority services in partnership to ensure increased communication and information, subsequently reducing conflict. Our biggest achievement in terms of this are our very successful annual conferences which bring together over 100 delegates, an equal mix of parents, carers.young people and practioners from Health, Education and Social Care to look at how we can all work better together with the child/young person at the centre.
Thanks to everyone for a very lovely day… and lovely because it wasn’t led purely by organisations and statutory services. Could you pass on my thanks to all those involved in the organisation of the day
We are enabling parents and carers and their children to gain knowledge of the SEND reforms and how to work with schools and services for better outcomes through a Community Interest company which hosts the Rotherham Charter .This has recently been launched nationally as Genuine Partnerships and has been recognised as an example of National Best Practice in terms of co-production by Contact a Family. This work in turn is also complimenting and fulfilling the statutory duties of Health and Local Authority services in relation to the Children and Families Act and SEND Code of Practice 2014 by strengthening partnership with children, young people and parents and has led to a national alliance, Voices. Currently in pilot, and following evaluation, this will be rolled out nationally to all 150 local areas as a tool for partnership working across sectors with children young people and families.
We see the isolation so often experienced by families living with additional needs reducing drastically as over 1000 families in Rotherham are accessing and engaging in our support and activities.
I wanted to let you know that when we attended the family drop in session and spoke with the educational psychologist, this has really helped my child in that his IEP at school has finally changed from 'how to hold a pen' to now suiting his needs. We were blown away at the Autism Communication Team and how they had been informed about my son from the educational psychologist, it was the best meeting at school we'd ever encountered and we wanted to say a huge thank you to you all for enabling this to happen, we are so grateful to you lovely people
Thank you for booking us on the swim, my little girl loved it, I have never seen her so relaxed
Can I just say how amazing you are, after a meeting with school yesterday I felt so emotional but after a chat you made me feel so much better about things. I just wanted to say thank you again for all of your support you are amazing
Please follow the link to join us, as much or as little that you can bring is enough. If you are experiencing an issue with your family, more than likely others are too and together we are stronger.
Together we can make a difference now and for future families, spend less time navigating the maze and have more time to celebrate our amazing families.