Forum Coordinator Blog

It has been a busy month for all of us at Family Voice Peterborough (FVP) which has only been possible through the hard work of the whole team. The culmination of the past month was our Festive Dinner and Participation Awards Evening which was attended by 100 guests; both professionals from across various sectors and parent carers. Something we didn’t do this year was host a small event for parent carers as part of carers rights day, which was on the same day as our festive dinner. We hope the parent carers who were able to join us had a great evening and got to relax for a change and take a well -earned rest from their busy lives. They spend all their time caring for their children and working hard to not only support their children but each other as well that taking time for themselves often gets put to one side. We are pleased to have raised £1500 on the night which will be split with the Head to Toe Charity for supporting the local child development centre.

Something people don’t always see is the work that goes on behind the scenes and which is made possible by the volunteers, staff, trustees and volunteers from other organisations such as BGL. It is hard to find words that express enough our gratitude for all their support with which we would not be able to do all that we do or help so many families or members of the local community.

The other part of what we do; the part that does not get seen, is also often misunderstood and that has a large unspoken impact is based in the work of our parent representatives. The parent representatives conduct strategic work on behalf of the forum for FVP. They have been trained in parent representation, the work of a parents forum, understanding participation and co-production and what it means work with and on behalf of FVP. The parent representatives are provided with full supervision and support to fulfil their role which is entirely voluntary. They work for as little or as much as they are able to and choose the work streams they take on.

FVP is not an advocacy service, so it is not in our remit to take individual cases; we are a strategic body with involvement at a strategic level across health, education and social care. Where change made will impact in the lives of many as opposed to a few. Change can take many shapes and forms …it goes from amending language in a document that may be unprecise and confusing to parent carers that just arrive into their journey or a strategic change of criteria within a service. At the heart of our service is your voice, the voice of all parent carers, we are at your service…. by you telling us what is important to you, what your daily “struggles” are and how those can be improved, by sharing what is working too and helping us to come up with solutions. It is paramount to us the quality of life of the family and therefore of the child, this is our purpose, that you never have to go through what “we” (all our staff and volunteers are parent carers) have in the past.

We are currently at the forefront of co-production work with services, and well ahead of many forums in the country, the road traveled has not always been easy, but the goal is always to best represent all of you, parents –carers. This would not be possible without the effort of a dedicated team of people that every day puts your interests first. It is a labour of love, dedication and commitment of all, a particular attention to our volunteers and other organisations that support us through the year, without them our work would not be possible.

At the moment we are involved in improving short breaks offer, SEND strategy and future action plan, the parent and school expectations document, to name a few ….absolutely a pleasure to be part of it, and a big thank you to everyone that has participated and co-produce it with us, and I mean you parent carers that took the time to have your input and believe that together SEND is everyone business.

At this point we would like to bust a few myths and share a few facts:

1. We are all professionals so do not understand what parent carers go through – we are parent carers ourselves and have all been through a range of struggles too.
2. We only work with education services – we are actually involved in work across all services including Health and Social Care (From Wheelchairs to CAMHs and Early Help as well as SEN Support and EHCp’s)
3. We work with individual families – we do offer signposting and support but on a collective level where we enable many parents to know what is out there for them
4. We are all about ASD/ ADHD services – we are actually pan disability (all disabilities) and work with many families whose children and young people have a range of needs. Our team members who are themselves parent carers also have children and young people with range of needs (physical, neurodevelopmental, health)
5. We attend panel meetings – we have two reps who take part in the SEND panel in an advisory capacity and who are bound by strict confidentiality regulations. 
6. If a parent rep is at panel they get to hear about parent carers they know – when a parent rep may potentially know a parent carer through panel they must leave the meeting during any discussion relating to that parent carer.
7. We receive government and LA funding – we do receive grants which are specifically to facilitate parent participation.
8. We work for the LA – we work with the LA as strategic partners and critical friends.
9. We represent individual parent carers – this would be advocacy and we do not advocate; we are representative of parent carers as we are parent carers and shared lived experiences.

We would not be able to achieve the level of co-production we have if we spent our forum time fighting. A forum does not lobby and campaign but will work with groups who do.

A forum works together with all parties, finds common ground and is solution focused. We know and understand the issues, difficulties and battles parent carers face as we face them too, we have just changed the way we work to seek better services for all children and young people.

We are a forum and a charity with the work of both and at this time of year with Christmas around the around the corner it is the season to be merry and hopeful, and set your goals that you would like for the New Year ahead, also the time that families are busy with all the festive preparations.

We would like to tell you all about our parties. All are family inclusive and children and parents find a place where they can have fun without the judgement or the worries , our centre is accessible to all, we pride ourselves in being pan disability and to absolutely welcome everyone. 
So the calendar is as follows: 
• 7th December Queensgate “Enable carers” – (Not Organised by FVP, but we will have an information stand)
• 8th December Festive Fayre
• 21st December our Christmas party

For more details please see details on Facebook or subscribe to our e-news. Please do not forget take care of yourselves.