Diary of a SEND Adviser & Advocate, March 2022
Welcome to our first blog detailing what is like to be a SEND adviser and advocate in this climate when our families’ needs are becoming more and more complex like it wasn’t complicated enough before. Why is it more complex now? Well, many statutory (legal entitlement if you qualify) services are slowly getting back to their feet, there is a backlog of course to get through so being on a waiting list for a much-needed service has taken on a new meaning when you already are on the verge of crisis point. How do we help families access the services they need when departments don’t have the capacity to do any more than they are able? So instead, we encourage families to be a little more patient but keep chasing that referral.
The rest of the week and last week, however, has been more triumphant than most. We have had great successes in the last 2 weeks to remind us things are getting better and a cheerful reminder that our input makes a big difference to families we support. The first was a short exchange from a male parent from Essex who stumbled upon our website. We had our usual 1-hour chat to unpick the problem and explore possible avenues they have never heard of, and off he went, relieved, reassured, and armed with the information I pulled from the Essex Local Offer website using my many years of knowledge. It’s one of our specialties, to know how to read these websites and understand how the Local offer works in any borough or county.
He was then under instruction to get back in touch with us to let us know how he got on. Their family was only at the beginning of their SEND journey, so it was important they start establishing local connections with local support groups and their parent carer forum as well as services.
Another such case closer to home involved a family whose case was so complex, we seemed to be going round in circles for months. Unfortunately, the situation did become more serious when the parents found they were physically unable to provide the level of support to their now adult-size child, because of the injury to their back, and joints. I had made a last-ditch attempt to raise the alarm and throw out new suggestions of a new approach. I spoke to the parents about doing things differently with a view to getting the support package back on track and after much back and forth with a new set of contracted agencies involved, the family got given a substantially increased support package appropriate for their needs.
To say I am relieved is an understatement. Just like the parent, I found it difficult to accept we couldn’t find a solution, but so often by now, most parents are so spent, discouraged, and defeated. They didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Then slowly, to everyone’s surprise, things started to move in the right direction, I was so pleased for everyone, the family, the social worker, her manager, and everyone who was at the receiving end of my loud and persistent poking at the problem.
Well, it was worth it not to have to scrape the family from the floor and for them to be plunged into crisis. I know secretly even social services was grateful they didn’t have to resort to that too. I made sure to thank and congratulate them on working so hard to find an acceptable solution in the end, because we know that most professionals are also looking for a way they can really help. It’s about relationships at the end of the day. We encourage parents to go halfway to show commitment to finding the middle ground where there is a willingness from the other side.
It’s early days yet, but at least we have a breakthrough, and we know what is possible.
It feels good to be part of the solution the community needs. Now, with renewed encouragement, I am off to poke at some more problems somewhere else, in Brent and Hertfordshire!