Parent Carers Together is the new parent carer forum for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole from April 2019. Parent carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities aged 0-25 years who live in these areas can sign up for free. The forum gathers the views of its members in a range of ways including through focus groups, surveys, via its website and social media. Their volunteers then work alongside local authority and health professionals to help shape and improve the education, health and social care services all our families so desperately need on the ground.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Borough Councils are merging this April to become Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council and that means that local parent carers need a new unified parent carer forum too. The change has signaled closure for Poole Parent Carer Forum. Dorset Parent Carer Council stays open but will no longer serve the Christchurch area. Bournemouth’s Parent Carer Foundation will continue to offer other services and is widening its remit, to provide its members with greater opportunities to have their voice heard and a range of other exciting initiatives. Parent Carers Together will be the Department of Education funded parent carer forum, and therefore will work closely with the Parent Carer Foundation to ensure their member voices will be represented in discussions taking place.
The new Parent Carers Together steering group says, “Parent carer forums are all about empowering parent carers to have their say. We urge parent carers living in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to join us. We welcome you whether you simply want to hear our news, give your views or get more involved.”
The steering group know that some parent carers are concerned that things are changing. They want to reassure everyone that Parent Carers Together has been working closely with the outgoing forums to ensure a smooth transition. They have already started meeting with Local Authority contacts to ensure that parents have a say in the way services are being planned and developed across the next few months.
Every local authority area in England has a parent carer forum run by and for parent carers. Forums make sure that parent carers are listened to whenever local authorities and NHS health are planning services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Volunteers are given training and support and travel expenses are reimbursed.