2017 AGM – Steering Group Review of the Year

At our AGM on Tuesday, Claire Johnson (a member of the PCF steering group, and one of your parent reps) presented a very brief summary of our forum’s very busy year!

My name is Claire. I am a member of the Steering Group, and this year I have also become a ‘Parent Rep’, working with Cheshire East to represent our members’ views and interests in finding better ways to work with our children & young people.

We are all parent carers and we are all volunteers. We know first hand how hard it can be to have a child or young person with additional needs, and the additional pressures that we face in making sure they get the health, educational and social service support they need.

In a moment we will hear from Sherann Hillman, who is Co-Chair of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums. Sherann is going to talk to us about ‘co-production’ and how we can work together with the Local Authority, CCGs and service providers to make things better.

After Sherann we’ll hear from Ian Donegani, who is Head of SEND at Cheshire East Council.

A lot of you came along to the consultation sessions we held in September and October last year, where Ian met you all and asked three questions: “What’s working well? What’s not working well? What does good look like?”

Ian will be talking about the work that has taken place since then, trying to learn from our experiences address the issues raised.

I am one of more than twelve parent representatives who has been involved in this work with Cheshire East, going to regular meetings to contribute and challenge. This has really got going since this year, and we’re still learning as we go, but it’s been a great opportunity. We have all agreed that it is great to be able to share our members’ views, and find ways to take some of the negative experiences and frustrations we have had and channel them into something more positive and constructive.

Through the forum we are able to offer support to other parent carers – sometimes just sharing advice on over the phone and at coffee mornings or on our Facebook group, but also by arranging training sessions.

We also hold Open Forums to look at a specific topic in greater detail. In November we held an Open Forum on Transition / Preparing for adulthood, where we brought together speakers and providers to meet parents and young people and share information.

This year we have held training sessions for Parent Representatives, legal training from IPSEA on SEND law and also some Confidence training sessions looking at strategies for discussing things that can be quite emotional while in meetings with professionals.

Our final speaker today will be Chris Wee, who – as well as being a member of our steering group and a parent representative, is also a Consultant Child Psychiatrist.  We know that Sensory Processing is an area where it is very hard to access support in Cheshire East, so Chris has kindly agreed to run a short workshop to share some of her expertise.

Sadly Nicola Bartzis, our Chair, had to step down from the position in February, due to personal circumstances. She is greatly missed by us all, both for all her hardwork , and also for her friendship and support, and we would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank her for all that she did. She is not able to be here with us today, but she has sent a short statement for us to share with you.

Hello everyone.

 I’m sorry that I can’t be there, but just wanted to add a few words.

This year has seen a lot of changes – and challenges!

We have been joined by several new parents on the steering group and I’m encouraged by the interest in becoming parent reps.

Our workload has increased dramatically, mostly thanks to Ian’s tireless work raising our profile and making sure that we have been included in the new SEND workstreams. We have risen to the challenge and then some – we are always in need of more parent carers who have some spare time and would like to make a real difference.

Austerity is unfortunately still with us and will be for some time. The cuts to local government funding (and the NHS) are dreadful not just to us and our families, but to all those whose job it is to help us. I really do believe that if we work together we will have a much better chance of making the most of what we have left.

A big thank you to all the parents who have donated their time and energy over the past year, without them there would be no parent voice. And thanks also to all the professionals who have made us feel included and valued.

I stepped down as Chair because of family circumstances, and wish the new Chair and the Forum continued success for the future.


A few other important people have decided it’s time for them to step down, so we would like to say a big thank you to Lucy Lee, our Treasurer, as well as steering group members Julie Wolfendale & Suzanne Hoxworth.

Overall this has been a very busy year for the Forum. At times we have been very stretched trying to do so much. It is great to feel like we are making a difference, and we would love to start getting more involved in working with health and with the regional parent carer forum, but we need do more people to do that.

If you think you might be interested in joining the steering group or representing parents please let us know

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