Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Survey Results: Satisfaction of Parents in SEND Pathfinder Authorities March 2014


The ERA conducted this short, basic survey via Survey Monkey.  We advertised it via our Twitter account and personal Facebook accounts for 4 weeks between February 2014 and March 2014, which led to 89 parents responding. 

We are a small organisation without financial resources and our aim, in the absence of any organisation undertaking independent sampling or sampling beyond Parent Carer Forums (PCF), was simply to test the water and obtain a snapshot of views. We do not make any claims to the statistical significance of the views collected, however, we note the substantial sums which have been offered to those piloting reforms i.e. local authorities and strategic partners, and we would strongly urge further efforts to include parents and take their views.

Here are the results: 

1. Do you live in a SEND Pathfinder area?

Yes:                54.55%
No:                 27.27%
Don’t know:    18.18%

It is concerning that almost one in five parents did not know whether they lived in a pathfinder authority. This included parents who did in fact live in such an area.

2. If yes, please state the name of your Pathfinder area?

The following table identifies all the 31 SEND pathfinder authorities. This includes SE7, which is a group of the 7 LAs identified by *.  (C) = pathfinder champion. 

SE7 was used once to identify where a particular parent lived so is not known which specific LA this relates to.

Coloured cells show the LAs specified by respondents. Note that 3 LAs were specified by respondents which aren’t pathfinders but we felt it was important to provide these as ALL parents will be affected by the reform.
(C) Bexley
(C) Brighton & Hove*
(C) Bromley
(C) Calderdale
(C) Hampshire*
(C) Hartlepool
Isles of Scilly
(C) Kent*
(C) Leicester City
(C) Manchester
(C) Medway*
(C) N.Yorks
(C) Solihull
(C) Southampton
(C) Surrey*
(C) Sussex (E)*
(C) Sussex (W)*
(C) Trafford
(C) Wigan
(C) Wiltshire

Although not pathfinder LAs, these were identified by respondents:
Buckinghamshire, Durham, Swindon

3. Does your child have SEN and/or disabilities?

Yes:   100%

4. Have your views been sought by your Local Authority or the Department for Education or any other organisation about the Children and Families Bill (SEN reforms)?

Yes:    47.73%
No:   52.27%

We could be excused for assuming that all the parents whose views have been sought live in pathfinder authorities, and that non-pathfinder areas aren’t necessarily going to be pro-active in seeking the views of their parents. This is not necessarily the case.

Of the parents whose views have been sought, only 57.57% live in pathfinder areas.

Of the parents whose views haven’t been sought, 42.22% live in pathfinder areas.

Consultation appears to be a postcode lottery.

5. How have your views been sought?

Through a Parent Carer Forum (PCF):            72.50%
Through membership of an organisation:         15.00%
Through a survey:                                           20%

The Department for Education has provided increased funding for PCF’s to facilitate parental involvement in shaping/piloting the reforms locally. However, although the majority of parents who completed the survey used a PCF to give their views about the reforms, only 69% of those parents live in a pathfinder LA, which suggests being a member of a PCF and living in a pathfinder authority doesn’t necessarily mean communication between LAs and parents is inevitable.

We also believe that reliance should not be placed on a single method of communication. Parents may choose not to be a member of a PCF.  Parents should be consulted and kept informed about SEND services affecting their children and young people, whether they have access to a PCF or not.

6. If your views have been sought, do you feel you have been given sufficient opportunity to express them?

  Yes:                    30.51%
No:                      61.02%
Don’t know:         8.47%

It is of concern that, even where consulted, parents did not feel they had been given sufficient opportunity to express their views.  If parents are to be valued for their expertise and knowledge about SEND in relation to their own child’s needs, and they want to be involved, then we need more than a tick the box exercise. Meaningful discussions where parents are treated as equal partners are required.

7. Do you feel you have received sufficient information about the progress and implementation of the reforms?

Yes:                  18.39%
No:                   81.61%
Don’t know:     1.15%

An overwhelming number of parents felt that they did not have sufficient information. This is unacceptable when substantial sums of funding have been provided to facilitate the reform process which was supposed to make SEN matters less, not more complex.

8. Do you feel the Children and Families Bill will:

Make a positive difference:          13.79%
Make a negative difference:         59.77%
Make no difference at all:             26.44%

It is of considerable concern that only one in eight parents responding feel that the reforms will make a positive difference to their lives. Millions have been spent implementing  these reforms and we  have persistently asked all those organisations who have welcomed the new Act to set out clearly how it is going to make a difference to children's lives. We have yet to see anyone respond.

This might account for the level of negativity in the responses or it may be that parents do not believe what they are being told about the ‘brave new world’ of co-production.

9. Please share any other views about the reforms and the reform process

Parents 's views are really important so we have attached an Appendix containing all the feedback received.

Out of 49 responses to this question, very few were positive about the reforms. The others highlight the concerns we have previously raised about the Children and Families Act. 


“The non-uniformity has turned provision into a postcode lottery. The draft SEN Code of Practice is not fit for purpose. School Action and School Action Plus children are not provided for. Time scales are not set and the right of appeal is not clear. It's a travesty and seems weighted in favour of Local and Health authorities and against parents and their SEN children as if or lives aren't hard enough already” 

From the responses, it is clear that parents generally do not feel like they have been given the opportunity to participate in shaping the reforms.  Whilst parents may, on occasion, have been asked for their views, the engagement process seems to have stopped there.  There is little evidence that their views have been acted upon.

This is unacceptable and it highlights the need for evidence to support reform and for meaningful consultation with parents, children and young people to ensure its legitimacy. Children and young people should be the heart of all decision making about important, life changing reforms like this but they have been left without a voice.   

Sadly, some of the large, very well-funded charities who are meant to be representing families have made little genuine effort to really listen to their views. They have, instead, implemented the Government reforms and have not been willing (or able) to justify their actions or explain their views on the changes.

Further, engaging solely with Parent Carer Forums is not the cure for parents who feel they don’t have a voice.  In some cases, our evidence indicates that being in a PCF means your individual views haven’t been sought as engagement takes place only with the PCF. We think this needs to be looked at very closely.  

In the draft Code of Practice, there is a sizeable paragraph (3.4) relating to PCFs, which starts by saying:

“Parents and young people must be involved directly in discussions and decisions about the support available to them individually and more strategically, particularly through the development of the local offer.”

It then goes on to describe what effective parent participation looks like:

“Effective parent carer participation happens when: 
the engagement and participation of parent carers in the local authority is valued, planned and resourced"
We see no evidence of this.

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