Parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) and young members of Wolverhampton Challenge Board came together to shine the Spotlight on SEND.
They joined representatives of the City of Wolverhampton Council, Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group, Voice4Parents, Changing Our Lives and voluntary and community organisation to identify the key priorities which will enable families to live an ordinary life. These will help shape the Wolverhampton SEND Partnership and Commissioning Board's SEND Strategy for 2020-25.
Jude Aston and Joe Schumann from Wolverhampton Challenge Board played key roles at the event, sharing their experiences of growing up in Wolverhampton with the audience.
They described how young people don’t want to be labelled as ‘SEND’ and that, while an ‘ordinary life’ is often seen as unachievable or unrealistic for young people with special educational needs and disabilities, by changing attitudes and raising expectations this need not be the case.
Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: "This free event was a great opportunity for families of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities to have a real say in the city's SEND strategy for the next five years.
"We received really positive feedback from families and professionals, particularly about the fact that Jude Aston and Joe Schumann led on much of the event and were able to share their experiences, which were really insightful.
"Families also had time to reflect on their journey and share with us what has been working well but, perhaps more importantly, what may be holding them back from being able to live an ordinary life. Families and professionals then had time to think about some of the solutions and what could be done better in future.
"Detailed feedback from the event will be used by the SEND Partnership and Commissioning Board to shape Wolverhampton's SEND strategy and inform priorities for the next five years. This will be co-produced with our strategic partners, including parents, carers and young people."
Emma Bennett, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Director of Children’s Services, added: "We would like to give special thanks to Joe and Jude from Wolverhampton Challenge Board and to members of Voice4Parents and all the families who attended and who gave us real insight to their lived experience.
"The day was a good example of co-production in action and a continuing journey of working together to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND."
The City of Wolverhampton Council's SEND Local Offer website showcases the help and support available to children and young people. The website – www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/localoffer – brings together a wealth of information and has sections devoted to advice and support, education, care, childcare, Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), health, leisure services, travel and moving into adult life.