The Children and Families Act 2014 highlights the importance of listening to “the views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parent, or the young person” and “the importance of the child and his or her parent, or the young person, participating as fully as possible in decisions relating to the exercise of the function concerned.”
Somerset, as an area, has signed up for the SEND Engagement and Participation Strategy, which outlines our vision to ensure this happens.
‘We want every child and young person to have the greatest possible opportunity to be the best they can be, to be happy and have choice and control over their lives.’
The SEND Participation and Engagement Team host the county’s Participation Workers Network to help share the Somerset Children’s Trust Participation Toolkit. It gives professionals useful tools and resources to capture children’s and young people’s views across all services.
As users of the services children, young people and their families have first-hand experience with those services and can help pinpoint problems that are often experienced by families with disabled children. This knowledge is useful to professionals to help them improve how services are delivered, so they better meet a family’s needs.
By listening to them we can identify what works well, what needs improving and what’s missing – usually known as ‘gaps in provision’.
When parents and professionals work together, recognising each other’s expert knowledge, informed decisions are made which make the best use of people’s time and money.
Participation takes various forms.
Service providers in the area consult with children, young people and parents about existing services, seeking their views about how services can be improved, and good practices shared from other areas. Consultation would also be undertaken when changes to services are planned then children, young people and parents should be told about proposed changes to a service and invited to give their ideas and raise any concerns about the proposals before final decisions are made. There is a list of consultations on Somerset Council’s website.
Participation happens when children, young people and their families work together with professionals to improve services and the delivery of services.
The purpose of participation is so that users of services can get involved in service planning and decision making, so that services meet the needs of families with disabled children. This way, resources are not wasted on services that parents and families do not take up. Working together and sharing knowledge means that we can find solutions that work.
Co-production happens when we come together to agree on outcomes, and co-produce recommendations, plans, actions and materials as a collective. There is equal value for each participant’s contribution. Co-production builds on transparency, open communication and equal value being given to each participant’s contribution – it is about trust.