We know that families often feel overwhelmed by the number of surveys and consultations there are out there and we often wonder how our views will be used and whether they will make a difference.
Thank you to everyone who has provided us with your stories, your views and experience - they are invaluable and the reason why we exist as an organisation.
The value of your feedback and how we use it
As a charity that represents families in Surrey who have a child with any additional need aged 0 to 25 (a diagnosis is not needed) it is vital that we ensure that we capture a range of views and feedback and encourage diverse parent carer participation.
Our role is to tell your collective story and to help change systems so that your families have a better experience. We strive to ensure that families are seen as valued and equal partners in any change process and are engaged from the start so that:
the right questions are asked and then answered to shape the best service and outcomes for families
when major changes are proposed that impact families, the information that you provide enables budget holders and services providers to be better informed so that their plans do not adversely impact outcomes for families.
Working with others
We work with council officers, health professionals, voluntary sector organisations and elected council members. We hope to collaborate and work with partners at the beginning of a project, we have found that this gives us the best opportunity to effect changes that will impact families.
We have an agreement with our Partners of how we should be working and how your voice matters and will be used.
We understand that the world of SEND is challenging - competing needs, increased demand and government funding that does not keep pace, so we are realistic too!
We have a work plan that includes attending core meetings such as the SEND Systems Partnership board and Schools Forum.
How do we decide which consultations to promote?
The consultations that we promote are most often linked to the project work we are involved with. In addition, sometimes council officers will ask Family Voice Surrey to promote other consultations.
Surrey County Council has a website dedicated to all its consultations: https://www.surreysays.co.uk/. When there are changes proposed to certain services, the council has a duty to ensure that the proposed changes are communicated clearly to everyone effected and they have the opportunity to feedback.
FVS determines whether or not to promote a consultation on behalf of a partner depending on the impact it will have on our families.
We’re sorry to hear that families were disappointed that we did not specifically promote this consultation.
The question of SEND funding is one that regularly emerges both nationally and locally. We know that resources are not sufficient to meet demand. It's important to understand that SEND funding is made up of many complex parts including funding that comes directly from schools, resource from local authorities and some from Health Partners.
Family voice Surrey sits on the Schools Forum to ensure that family voices are heard in discussions to help the forum make decisions that are informed by all parties. Perhaps more importantly, we have been involved in several parts of the transformation programme which seeks to identify and support children with special educational needs early and make better and more efficient use of the existing resource throughout the system.
The most recent consultation posted on Surrey Says by the Schools Forum was regarding discretionary additional needs funding, which the local authority identified had not been effective. This is a relatively small allocation for mainstream schools, intended to top up other funding to meet the needs of children with EHCPs. The papers included in the consultation were directly aimed at head teachers and governors, as is the normal practice for Schools Forum.
In light of the complexity of the funding picture as a whole and the varied impact any decision will have on our families, we left it to Surrey County Council to promote this consultation.
It is crucial to remember however, that the statutory duty on schools and local authorities to provide education that meets needs to each and every pupil with special educational needs and disabilities is unchanged. Family voice continues to work in collaboration with the local authority and schools to ensure that your views are heard and that every child with additional needs receives the support they are entitled to.
As a small charity we are always looking for ways to increase our representation and for new parent carer volunteers to become more involved in the forum. If this is something you would like to know more about, please do email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope that you have found this information useful - please do keep sending us your views.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for being part of our community in this particularly challenging year. We have loved getting to know you better through our online events and look forward to the time when we can meet in person. In the meantime, I wish you the best possible festive season in whatever way your family celebrates it.