• SEND speak

Parent Panel, News & Growing Up

Dear All

Thank you for the positive feedback about SENDspeak. 😊

“…thank you for taking the time to put this together – it really is the very best and most informative email I routinely receive.”

“…the information you always provide really useful and makes me feel confident and not feel alone in missing valuable information, with many thanks.”

Next week, SENDspeak will aim to cover as many Easter holiday activities as possible. If there is anything you know of that is not well known and is particularly inclusive, please e-mail

1. Richmond Parent Panel – meeting #1

2. New special school for Kingston

3. New school approved for children with SEN (Richmond)

4. Who or What is AfC?

5. Who to Ask? - The Local Offer

6. The Post-16 Maze - is your pathway smooth?

7. Don't Miss Out – for Post-16's

8. Preparing for Adulthood (PfA)

9. The SEND Inquiry rolls on

10. SEN Implementation news

11. Review of the Autism Strategy

12. The Regional Stakeholder Network

13. An evening with Dean Beadle

1 Richmond Parent Panel – meeting #1

The first of these was held last week and, as a parent of two young people with SEND, I went along. It was heartening to see nearly 20 parent/carers keen to tell their stories and contribute to identifying common issues. This appears to provide a positive start for the Council, AfC and the CCG to keep in touch with parent/carers in Richmond in the absence of a PCF.

Non-parent attendees:

…from Richmond Council James Thomas, Director of Children’s Services for Richmond (also Chaired the meeting) Cllr Penny Frost, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools

Cllr Jo Humphreys, Assistant Cabinet Member (Children's Services & Schools)

...from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

Doreen Redwood, Lead Children’s Health Commissioner

…from Achieving for Children (AfC) Charis Penfold, Director of Education Services Joel Hartfield, Associate Director, Business Development & Communications Karen Lowry, AfCinfo/SEND Local Offer Website Manager

Ashley Whittaker, Programme Director (SEND)

There will be minutes circulated to attendees in due course. For now, this is my take on the meeting:

First off, James welcomed everyone and covered the ground on CYPwDLD Forum, SEND Partnership Boards, the funded Parent Carer Forum (PCF) and this, the Parent Panel.

In short, the CYPwDLD Forum is attended by community/voluntary organisations, and those who come and speak at that meeting are speaking as parent reps from their organisations.

The PCF, when it is set up, will be funded by the DfE via Contact. During the meeting Councillors and AfC expressed their hope that the PCF will decide to work directly and co-productively with AfC.

The Parent Panel: AfC and Richmond Council want to be sure they are talking directly with parent/carers – hence the Parent Panel. James said that AfC had made mistakes with their parent/carer engagement in the past and now was the time to develop honest, transparent and reliable working relationships with parent/carers.

It was clear during the meeting that the shape, direction and purpose of the Parent Panel is to be defined by the parent/carer members.

This is what the Parent Panel talked about:

· Everyone wants their voice to be heard

· Plenty of commentary on how difficult the system is to navigate and how reliant we are on each other as community navigators

· So how can we make this better?

· How do we share our parenting experiences in order to make a positive impact?

· What power does this panel have?

· Do we have the power to drive improvements?

· As volunteers, giving our time, it must be worth it.

My personal view is also that parents, as recipients of many services, commissioned by many providers, have a better strategic view of the services in their entirety than many commissioners. We see the bigger picture and we know where the strengths and weaknesses occur; listen to us.

One more thing

Oh… and if you’d like to know more about James Thomas, he tweets:


14th March

“Important step forward for Richmond this week with the new SEND Parent Panel's first meeting. Very grateful for the commitment made by all those parents attending to share their experiences in order to help us drive improvement for all children with SEND.”

NB: Kingston Councillors are still exploring a similar Parent Panel as an option.

2 New special school for Kingston

Monday 11th March

“The Department for Education (DfE) has approved Kingston Council’s application for a new free school for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in the borough. The school, which is due to open in September 2022, will provide 90 places for children and young people aged five to 19 who have Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Subject to approval at committee later in the year, the new school is proposed to be located on the Moor Lane Centre site in Chessington.”

You can read the full press release here:

3 New school approved for children with SEN (Richmond)

Tuesday 12th March

“A new free school for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities has been approved for the borough. The school will provide 90 places for children and young people aged 7 to 19 who have social, emotional and mental health needs, and is proposed, subject to planning permission, to be established as part of South West London St George’s Mental Health Trust’s redevelopment of the Barnes Hospital site, on South Worple Way.”

You can read the full press release here:

4 Who or What is AfC?

Whilst most boroughs have a Local Authority (LA) to provide children’s services, in Kingston and Richmond, the Council commissions Achieving for Children to do this for them. Here is a set of links from their home website that comes with organisation charts and photographs:

“Achieving for Children (AfC)is a not-for-profit social enterprise company created in 2014 by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames to provide their children’s services. In August 2017, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead became a co-owner of AfC, and we now deliver children’s services across all three boroughs.”

Here is the leadership team – with photographs:

And an organisation chart. Most of the SEND services for Education, with be under the Director of Education Services. The image is tiny, but you can download it.

NB: The role of Director for Children’s Services (DCS) is a statutory role, and the incumbent is employed directly by the Council – not Achieving for Children. However, each borough’s part of Achieving for Children report to the DCS.

5 Who to Ask? - The Local Offer

As provider for children’s services, Achieving for Children is responsible for hosting the Local Offer website. If you have a query about anything you can, or can’t, find on the Local Offer. Use the Contact Us tab to ask… it is a duty that the Local Offer must publish both questions and answers it receives to the Local Offer.

6 The Post-16 Maze - is your pathway smooth?

Once our children leave school, they become something called Post-16; and it can seem like navigating a new maze. Here is a friendly parent group, open to all, that may be able to help:

“Please join us at our “parents supporting parents” group for those of us with young people with SEND who are in the complex world of post 16. We have had informal but very helpful discussions on various topics including benefits, wills and trusts, mental capacity and how to get a social worker. We share information, signpost each other and offer support by having monthly coffee and cake sessions.”

Friday 10 May – 9.30am to 11.30am

Friday 7 June – 9.30am to 11.30am

Friday 12 July – 9.30am to11.30am

Hosted by Me Too and Co. at The Crossway, 306 Richmond Road, Twickenham, TW1 2PD

No need to book and all are very welcome

7 Don't Miss Out – for Post-16's

“If you have a learning disability you can get extra support when visiting your doctor - all you have to do is add your name to the learning disability register. See our videos and guides to make sure you don't miss out.”

8 Preparing for Adulthood (PfA)

This is a great website; it was funded by the Department for Education (DfE) in advance of SEND Reforms in 2014. The PfA people are still operating and their resources page is worth a look, it covers:


· Employments

· Friends, Relationships and Community

· Good Health

· …and much more

“Funded by Department for Education (DfE), we provide expertise and support to local authorities and their partners to embed preparing for adulthood from the earliest years. We work to ensure that young people with SEND achieve paid employment, independent living, housing options, good health, friendships, relationships and community inclusion.”

9 The SEND Inquiry rolls on

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and the health sector examined

On 5th March, the Inquiry held a round-table discussion with representatives from the health sector, including Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Care. You can read the transcript of the discussion here:

Young People with SEND

The next oral evidence discussion is next Tuesday,19th March from 10:00 am with young people with SEND. You can watch this live, using the link below. The discussion will be held in The Wilson Room in Portcullis House; you will need to click on the live TV link for that room.

Watch live at 10am:

10 SEN Implementation news The next two items are taken directly from the Department for Education’s SEN Implementation e-news. This is an open distribution, which means anyone can sign up to receive these.

Simply ask to be added using the e-mail address below:

11 Review of the Autism Strategy

The launch of the call for evidence for the review of the Autism Strategy

It's been 10 years since the Autism Act became law - the only Act dedicated to improving support and services for a single disability.

“Today, 14 March, the Department of Health and Social Care, with the Department for Education, has launched a national call for evidence to inform our review of the Autism Strategy. The call for evidence is inviting views from autistic people, their families and carers as well as those of professionals. It is aimed at finding out what is working, where progress has been made and, importantly, where we need to push harder to transform the lives of autistic people, their families and carers.

The call for evidence can be accessed online at the following link: and is open for responses until 16 May 2019.”

12 The Regional Stakeholder Network

This announcement also come from the SEN Implementation e-news and is from the ODI – Office for Disability Issues. These are unpaid roles, although travel expenses with receipts can be paid for attending Network meetings and the Ministerial advisory group.

“The Regional Stakeholder Network will bring the views of disabled people, local disability organisations, and organisations that represent disabled people closer to government. Through its 9 groups across England it will create face to face forums and provide a channel for people to share their views about policies and services that affect them.

We are looking for Chairs to lead and drive the efforts of their group forward, and Members to share their views and experiences to help government make improvements. Further details and how to apply are on our website:”

13 An evening with Dean Beadle

Join Express for an evening with Dean Beadle. Dean is very funny, truly entertaining – you will be guaranteed a jolly night!

“Your evening will be hosted by our wonderful patron Mr John Williams (My Son's Not Rainman). Dean will share what he has learned about himself in the 20 years since he discovered he was autistic. He will cover school life, anxiety, autistic joy, sensory needs, emotional needs and much more. This humorous and insightful evening will include songs that have been relevant to Dean's life, sung by Dean and accompanied by John Pead.”

Saturday 27th April - Doors open at 7:30pm

The CornerHouse, Surbiton

Tickets include light nibbles and there will be a cash bar on the evening.

If you have any questions at all, please ask and I'll do my best to find an answer.

With best wishes, Romany



15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All