Welcome to the Parent Carer Network in Herefordshire!
The network is run by and for parents whose children have disabilities and or special educational needs. We aim to provide peer support and information to parents and to work closely with local service providers, community groups and local businesses to improve the social, educational, employment and housing opportunities for people with disabilities and those who care for them.
We recoginse that our caring responsibilities will in many cases continue into our child’s adult life and we aim to support parent carers and their children / adult children regardless of age.
We are a parent led service run entirely on a voluntary basis. Membershp is free to anyone interested in improving the lives of parent carers, people with disabilities and their families.
The Parent Carer Network meets on every third Wednesday of the month at the Royal Hotel in Ross on Wye. We meet from 7.30 but meetings are very informal so feel free to join us when it is convenient for you. If nothing else you can enjoy a drink with friends….
Next meeting: Wednesday 18th November 2015 (From 7.30 – 9.30 ish @ The Royal Hotel, Ross On Wye)
Last night we welcomed Melys who has been working with an organisation called Practice Solutions. http://www.practicesolutions-ltd.co.uk
They are piloting the use of digital filming to help people with disabilities capture important information about their lives to share with carers and staff. Apart from the fun people have had the process aids communication, promotes independence and increases self esteem
We discussed a range of possible uses that the group were interested in including: annual reviews at school so that parents could see what their child archived at school, travel training to demonstrate that people are capable of independent travel and sharing important information about a child’s care such as using a hoist or other critical pieces of kit. Ed will follow these ideas up with the special schools and the independent travel trainers in the first instance.
We also agreed to constitute the group as a group by association. This will allow us to open a bank account and raise some much needed cash to support many of the social activities we want to run for the kids.
Next meeting March 16th @ The Royal Hotel Ross on Wye from 7:30pm
It has been some time since the last post but the meetings continue strongly. In recent months we have welcomed new members and a variety of visitors. A special thank you to Nicky from Parent CarerVoice who now attends regularly and helps to keep us in contact with activities in Hereford and to Vicky a newly qualified Social Worker who attends and provides an informal link into local services.
The importance of the social aspect of the group grows every month for the parents and discussions about how we can create new opportunities for our children are dominant. If anyone wants to help us arrange activities and or help set up a charity to support the aims of the group please let us know via the contact page.
Many thanks to Halo Leisure and to all of the families who made yesterday’s Swim Party such a success. Over 30 people attended Hereford Leisure Pool and we were delighted to welcome families from across the county including Leominster in the North and Ross on Wye in the South. It was also great to welcome new families to the group. Everyone is welcome!
Having a private party was certainly a relaxing way to enjoy the leisure pool without the crowds allowing the kids to play and the parents to relax. It was also good to have so many giant floats in the pool.
Given the numbers of families in attendance from Ross we had a quick chat with Halo leisure to enquire about creating a swimming group for children with disabilities when the pool in Ross re opens. They liked the idea and we will continue to talk to them to see if anything can be arranged.
Communication and networking opportunities were again highlighted as we organised the event. Unfortunately Hereford Council does not have a database of children with special needs or a mailing list that we can use. Thanks to Ed and the special schools who were a great help but we had little support from the SENCO network for children in mainstream schools. We have started a discussion with Barrs Court Road School to see how they can help us develop a contact list.
Many thanks to Ben Proctor from Hereform Council for identifying this opportunity with Halo Leisure.
This months swim party will be held on Saturday 28th March. Halo Leisure have kindly donated a free swim party for children with disabilities and SEN. Parents and siblings welcome. Full details have been circulated via the Special Schools in Hereford and the network of SENCOs throughout the mainstream schools.
Places are limited so booking is essential. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A second, more informal event is being arranged for Easter Monday with an informal gathering and visit to the Forest Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dene. Any interested families are free to join us for a walk around the park, to play in the playground or visit the cafe. This is an informal opportunity to meet and network with other local families. Meeting from 1:30pm. All welcome..
It was good to hear that one of our families has recently chosen a new school for their daughter. We wish them all well as they begin their journey through the educational system.
The meeting focused attention on how the network could find the resources to run two events designed to provide social opportunities for our children and networking and opportunities for the parents. It was agreed to approach a number of different local organisations and community groups that the parents already have contact with to help identify a suitable venue and support to run activities.
Next meeting February 18th from 7:30 at The Royal Hotel, Ross on Wye
Ed Edwards has kindly informed us that Jo Davidson ( Director of Children’s Services) has asked him to think about how the Parent Partnership could be engaged to help inform the work of the Children and Young People’s Partnership. The CYPP is responsible for planning services for the next three years and this is a great opportunity for any parents to get their voice heard.
It has been suggested that members of the CYPP are free to attend the Partnership meetings but if any parents are interested in meeting with the CYPP please contact us either directly or through the web site.
An eventful last meeting of 2014 with new faces and some new resolutions for taking the partnership forward:
Choosing a school for a child with special needs is not easy. Small rural schools inevitably have little experience of working with children with disabilities and or special educational needs. The chances of finding a school that has recent experience of working with a child with a similar disability as your own is remote. It is also unlikely that you will meet a parent of a child who has been to any of your local schools to give you an honest opinion about their experiences. For legal reasons the Council are not allowed to advise parents which schools are good at providing for children with special needs. It was agreed however that the Educational Psychologists would be willing to visit a school with parents to help them ask the right questions and make sense of the answers. This could prove to be a great help to parents looking to find the right school for their child
Care Opinion is a web site that allows service users to rate local services. It is carefully moderated and can prove to be very useful in helping parents make informed choices and for local services to gain honest feedback about how they can best improve. Following discussions at the November partnership meeting the Council has agreed to look at working with Care Opinion to extend this service to include parents opinions about local schools.
Events for 2015: It was agreed that the partnership would look to host two events in 2015. Both events will be designed designed around the idea that parents often come together around activities targeted at their children. The idea being that if the children are entertained the parents are likely to attend and be freed up to talk with each other. Final agreements for the events are to be agreed but the ideas included:
1. Sporting activities and social opportunities. This aim of this event will be to provide opportunities for children to try new sports and identify new opportunities that could be supported locally. For parents this will be an opportunity to meet socially and have some fun!
2. Health Education & Social Care. One of the big challenges for the council is finding capacity to complete all of the new EHSC PLANS as part of the new local offer. It has been agreed to try and do this in a new and innovative way that will give parents much greater control of what is included in the plan for their child. The idea is to hold a market place event where professionals can present to parents the range of services they have available and the type of needs they can best meet. Parents, who already understand their children’s needs, will be able to priorities which services they would want included in their child’s plan. By doing this collectively parents will also be able to chat with other parents about the types of services they do and do not think are most effective.
In the spirit of the partnership, both events will be an opportunity to demonstrate what can be achieved if parents and professionals work together as equal partners.
Finally, we hope everyone had a great Christmas and we wish everyone well for the New Year!
Next Meeting Wednesday 21st January at The Royal Hotel, Ross on Wye, from 7:30pm. All welcome
November was our biggest meeting to date. It was great to see so many families and staff from the local authority at the network meeting this week. Thanks to everyone who made this an enjoyable social night out and a productive forum for discussing how we can work together to improve opportunities in the local area.
Key discussinos: Although discussions ranged far and wide a number of common themes emerged throughout the evening:
1: Sticking with the aims of the network two common themes emerged in the discussions: How can we improve employment, housing and social opportunities for our children in the area and who will care for our kids when we are too old to do so ourselves
2. An opportunity may have arisen to develop a micro enterprise hub. This would generate local employment and social opportunities for people with disabilities in the Ross area. Next steps to talk to the council and put a business plan together to develop a local site or vacant building and provide a space where families can meet, work and support local enterprises.
3. Choosing Schools. There is a general concern that there is a lack of information about which local schools are good at meeting the individual needs of their children. The local authority has lots of information about SEN provision in schools but is not legally allowed to provide advice. One option would be to create a trip advisor type service so that local parents could share their experiences of different schools. There are difficulties with this approach and the local authority suggested that they would see how they could make the information they do have available to parents.
4. It was suggested that the time might be right to extend the number of local authority staff involved in the network. It is great to have the support of staff in Education, web services and adult learning disability services engaged but it would also be great to engage other staff from economic development, children and adult services, housing and leisure. We will invite staff who we believe share our desire to improve local services and those who may themselves care for a child with a disability.
NEXT MEETING 17th DECEMBER
Much of the discussion at the last few meetings has included ideas for sharing information. The thought at the moment is that we need to try a variety of different approaches:
One of these will be to develop a very simple web site. This can act as a point of contact for new parents looking to network and also a place we can share information about meetings and local services. Ben has agreed that the Council will host this but we are free to add any content we choose. This is shared approach is a good opportunity demonstrate a willingness to work together. Ben and I have agreed to give this a first go but if you have an interest, or any thought please let us know.
Education Health & Social Care Plans:
An idea we suggested last month was to explore the opportunity of developing the EHSC plans in a group setting. This is now being taken forward by the council. The idea being that parents could have a greater say in what the plan looks like to ensure it meets their expectations for their child, an opportunity for parents in a locality to meet each other and an opportunity for the Council to increase their capacity to deliver the plans with limited resources.
Finally we discussed whether we should arrange an activities day. Parents are generally more likely to attend something that supports and engages their child(ren) than a council engagement event. From my personal experience most of the parent carers I have met have been at specialist tennis and football sessions, not at council events. We have no idea how we might take this forward at the moment so if you have any ideas please share them.
If you have any interest in any of these ideas / developments please let us know even if it is just to say that do or do not like an idea. Equally if you have an idea of how we can improve services and the lives of people with disabilities and their families please contact us.
Next meeting: Wednesday 17th November