Living within the London Borough of Sutton, there are over 900 families with a child or young person who has a disability or additional need.
The children of these families have a number of different difficulties including physical and learning disabilities, behavioural, sensory or rare disorders, as well as severe health conditions causing additional care needs.
The Sutton Parents Forum is run by these parents for these parents, primarily to make sure that our collective difficulties are recognised by the London Borough of Sutton, and that we have a voice within the Local Authority to effectively inform decisions about resources, services and policies which will directly affect our children.
If you are a parent of a disabled child living in Sutton, you are already a part of the forum – there are no forms to complete or hoops to jump through – you’re one of us already!
You can choose whether to get more involved or not – but we really do welcome your involvement and input – your unique experiences, frustrations, insights and successes are part of the wider picture of how life really is for our families.
Together, our collective voice can achieve real change and improvement.
Sutton Parent’s Forum is now a Community Interest Group and is led by an 8-strong panel of parents on the Steering Committee. 6 parents from this Committee attend and take an active role in all the Disability Partnership Board meetings at the Civic Offices, where decisions are taken on how to best support families like ours.
Our parents are often asked to sit on Sutton Council recruitment interview panels to help select new staff in key positions; take an active role in Sutton staff training sessions; attend national disability conferences as Sutton Representatives and to speak at Conferences and Seminars.
Aiming High for Disabled Children
In 2007 the Government published a report entitiled “Aiming High for Disabled Children, better support for families” (AHDC).
It outlines a programme to transform services for disabled children, with substantial new funding and measures designed to make systems work better. It is closely linked to the Every Child Matters programme, and it’s long-term goal is to radically improve the life chances of every disabled child.
Specifically, the AHDC programme aims to deliver
- Access and empowerment for disabled children and families
- Responsive services and timely support
- Improved service quality and capacity
A fundamental part of this new approach is to encourage, and provide funding for Parent Forums in every area, to give parents of disabled children a voice in local decision-making, allowing parents to contribute their expertise to help shape services.
In Sutton, our Parent’s Forum was formed in 2002, five years ahead of the AHDC initiative!
Our successes are already many and varied, but one of the best things about working together with Sutton Council over many years is that relationships between parents and service providers are generally very strong in Sutton.
By being visible and having a voice, we are seeing parent participation really working well here, and helping to break down the old-style attitudes of “them and us” caused by mutual mistrust and lack of understanding.