Working together in the pandemic – HPCI (Herts Parent Carer Involvement) and HCC
Since the pandemic and lock down measures HPCI, as the parent carer forum for Hertfordshire, has worked closely with HCC to raise issues that families are facing and work together on how to respond.
An HPCI representative attends the weekly online SEND Cluster meeting. This is chaired by Jo Fisher who is Operations Director for Services for Young People and it is also attended by lead officers from across Children’s Services in Herts such as Integrated Services for Learning, 0-25 Together Service, Standards and Accountability, Virtual Schools, School Effectiveness and the Local Offer. The group is very focused on getting solutions and decisions on the topics discussed. HPCI looks at anything about the current pandemic situation that affects children and young people with SEND in Herts such as the latest government guidance and the key issues that families and services are facing focusing on how to help address them.
How does HPCI know what to raise? HPCI’s team of parent reps have their 'ear to the ground' hearing directly from families in a number of ways about their experiences. The group keeps an eye on government communications and then thinks about how that will affect families with SEND. HPCI links in with the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and picks up on the national picture feeding it back locally as well as passing Hertfordshire experiences back to the NNPCF for them to raise with government departments.
What has HPCI raised locally and what has been done?
Communications – suggesting and reviewing lots of communications that go out to parents using a number of different media. These are either from services directly or on the local offer to make sure that they include everything, are clear and easily understood.
SEND Local Offer website: helping with the design and content of the Local Offer coronavirus updates page and the resources area to make the information as clear and easy to find as possible in a fast-changing situation.
Clarifying where parents should go for help if things are not working for them such as the ISL helpline, Herts Help or SENDIASS.
Risk assessments by schools – HPCI highlighted the lack of parental involvement by a number of schools in the risk assessments for children with EHC plans. This resulted in schools constantly being reminded about the need to involve parents and young people along with communicating to parents that they should be involved in these assessments.
Direct Payments – there was confusion about what families could do with direct payments (DP) with so many services closed. This led to new guidance about what it can be spent on and some frequently asked questions published on the Local Offer and publicised to parents.
Therapy Services – asking for and getting a clear statement from the provider of children’s therapies about what they were providing. Followed up by working with HCC on getting a clear plan on when and how therapy services will be restored by the provider.
Face masks – putting forward the issues for families around their compulsory use on public transport and the exemption cards that are available. This has led to a dedicated page going live within 2 days on the Local Offer that has downloadable versions for use on smart phones or printing out.
HPCI and HCC have also continued to work on most of the projects and work streams that were happening before the pandemic so that there aren’t too many delays for when things get back to whatever normal will look like. These meetings are being held online using Microsoft Teams. After getting used to using Teams the meetings are generally working well and mean that the family voice is still there and parent reps don’t have to spend time travelling or finding somewhere to park. We look forward to seeing how this way of working will develop in the future.
JOIN HPCI - All parents or carers of children and young people aged 0-25 years with SEND in Hertfordshire are able to join our free parent network - HERE