FiP – Under new management!

Dear members, friends, colleagues and those we don’t yet know. Some of you have heard of the parent carer forum, Families in Partnership (FiP). This has been the ‘official’ voice of parents carers with children ages 0-25 with SEND in Worcestershire for several years. Funded by the Department for Education and Worcestershire Children First, some of the work has seen successes, and much of it, many would argue, has not.

We recognised the many failings of FiP and as we continued to struggle to get answers; continually disappointed by a lack of transparency in the organisation; a lack of representation at meetings; and a lack of constructive challenge across the system, we held a formal mediation. (This an official meeting where decisions were made and had to be adhered to). As a result of that meeting, we both joined the existing FiP steering group. We felt conflicted at the idea of aligning ourselves personally and professionally with an ailing organisation, and one that we openly rightly and fairly criticised. However, we recognised that we had limited options, and this would be our mechanism for implementing real change within the forum.

We have long been a vocal and authentic presence at strategic meetings in our own names. It was decided therefore, that our expertise would be helpful to move FiP forward and regain the trust of parent carers and stakeholders across the county. We both have two children with SEND, we both have our own ongoing battles with education and social care, we are both neurodivergent, and we both attempt to hold down our own jobs. We also work in the disability and health sectors independently.

Since joining the steering group, and seeing some resignations in the existing one, it has become a clear majority of impartial Worcestershire Parent Carers. It has taken us a few weeks of fact-finding and getting ourselves up to speed on all the detail. It has been enlightening.

There is a lot of work required to improve things, but this has started. We have identified our priorities for the next few months, and as we are starting almost from scratch, we need your help and support in doing so.

Our Priorities

  • Annual General Meeting (AGM) – this is a long overdue requirement of the organisation and it is now booked for 21/03/24 at 12 noon. More details coming soon.
  • Constitution – A governance document required by the organisation, that we all recognise is not fit for purpose. We are immediately setting up a working party to coproduce the constitution and plan to sign it off at the AGM.
  • Rebrand – The well-publicised failings of FiP have seen an understandable distrust in the organisation. We are new, we have new ambitions, we want more new faces and we need a new name!
  • Transparency – We commit to being absolutely open about all forum activity and challenge. We will update the website including accounts, contractual obligations and parent carer feedback reports.
  • Recruitment – we need parent reps who are willing and able to coproduce and offer constructive challenge at decision-making meetings with the WCF, WCC, ICB and NHS. Details coming soon and training included.
  • DfE Quarterly review visit in April 2024 – We need to supply accurate, real-life feedback that reflects the actual experiences of parent carers in Worcestershire.

We are starting with transparency. The steering group has changed, and we are now made up of: Berni, Hazel, and Iona. We have one employed member of staff who works on a specific programme of work. We have some temporary admin support but, we will be recruiting to an admin post. The Worcestershire Association of Carers (WAC) continue to be our financial hosts and are supportive, but don’t have any voting rights or influence over the forum.

As we strongly hold the opinion, nothing about us without us, all coproducing decisions relating to parent carers will be undertaken by parent carers.

If you’ve expressed an interest in being more involved in Worcestershire’s parent carer forum, we will be in touch shortly.

At the moment, we still don’t have access to FiP emails, but should do soon. Meanwhile, you are welcome to use Facebook messenger to get in contact.

Berni Louise and Hazel Shaw