An extraordinary 18 months
No-one could have anticipated what was to come in February 2020. We knew that the coming year would hold challenges and opportunities for parent carer forums – the shortfalls in services experienced by our children, the SEND review and the NHS Long Term Plan were quite enough to contend with. On top of this, the coronavirus pandemic added new harms for our children and exacerbated existing issues.
You have risen to the challenge
The work you have done through this period has been extraordinary. Forums have adapted to the new normal and laid on virtual coffee mornings, distributed information packs, offered peer support, signposted to essential services, conducted surveys. Most importantly you have kept shining a spotlight on the issues – from children with SEND being denied school places to the unilateral closure of many essential respite services. It is even more remarkable that you did this whilst caring for and home schooling your children.
But it was your work that enabled the NNPCF to make essential changes to the response to the pandemic, such as changing lockdown guidance to better support young people with SEND (e.g. being able to go out more than once a day); enabling catch up funding for schools to be spent on SEND specific services such as therapies; and ensuring that return to school guidance emphasised holistic wellbeing rather that behaviour and attendance.
The value of forums has been recognised
Forums have grown in stature, prominence and influence over the year. The value you add has been recognised in the increase in funding offered by the DfE for the coming year. The NNPCF is joining more senior boards and has had more opportunities to represent your views than ever before.
But we know the future is going to be tough
However, we all know that many of our children have had a terrible time and we will face new challenges. The old issues in the SEND system have not gone away and new ones have emerged. The SEND review and the NHS Long Term Plan remain priorities.
We are incredibly proud to represent such a passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated group of people. Without your hard work, the NNPCF would not have been able to make the difference we have.
Our children will need your energy and focus over the coming term so please take the opportunity to have a well-earned break from forum work over the summer holidays.
We hope you get the break you deserve.
Thank you and see you in the autumn.
The NNPCF Steering group