What is Parent Participation?
Parent participation means parents and professionals working together to improve services and the delivery of services so that they better meet families’ needs. In raising their families, parent carers gain first-hand experience of using services. By listening to them we can identify what works well, what needs improving and what’s missing – typically referred to as ‘gaps in provision’.
Parent carers can help pinpoint problems frequently experienced by families with disabled children. This knowledge is useful to professionals to help them improve how services are delivered, so they better meet family’s needs.
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.
Parents and carers understand the problems and issues that families with disabled children face and this knowledge can be used practically in shaping services that are relevant and right for the disabled children and their families in their areas.
In line with the NNPCF policy Somerset Parent Carer Forum focus on four main areas of Participation which we believe makes a positive difference. The role of Somerset Parent Carer Forum is to become involved at the appropriate stage or progress of local policies to develop these four areas on behalf of the parents and carers they represent.
The more informed that parents are, the more they will feel confident and able to make appropriate choices for their children and families. This knowledge is an essential ingredient in shaping effective services that best meet local needs. It underpins successful consultation and parents’ participation.
Consultation is a step up from simply giving information as it requires a two-way communication. Practitioners should consult with parents on existing services, seeking their views on how services can be improved and good practice shared from other areas. Another reason for consultation could be when changes to services are planned then parents should be informed about proposed changes to a service and invited to give their ideas and raise any concerns about the proposals before final decisions are made.
The purpose of parent participation is to enable parents to get involved in service planning and decision making so that services meet the needs of families with disabled children and resources are not wasted on services which parents and families do not take up. Effective parent participation happens when parents have conversations with and work alongside practitioners, in order to design, develop and improve services. The benefits of participation included practitioners understanding what needs to happen to develop services that meet families’ needs and parents understand the complexity involved and the challenges faced by the practitioners who have to bring about that change. Working together and sharing knowledge enables us to find solutions that work.
Co-production happens when all team members together agree outcomes, co-produce recommendations, plans, actions and materials as a collective. It is an approach which builds upon meaningful participation and assumes effective consultation and information sharing. In its essence, co-production is a dynamic group process and happens in the room when there is equal value for each participant’s contribution. Parent carers are not there just to illustrate the experiences of services users but rather to take responsibility to help shape future experiences and be an active part of delivering the solutions.
As part of this process feedback needs to be given the parents’ responses, setting out clearly what has changed as a result of parent feedback and where it has not been possible to make changes, explaining why.
Contact, the charity for disabled children, provide useful information on Parent Carer participation which can be found at https://contact.org.uk/get-involved/parent-carer-participation/
The Council for disabled children provide information on children and young peoples participation here https://councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/help-resources/resources/making-participation-work-factsheets