1. Family Support Group Weekly Drop-in: Terms of Reference

This drop-in is being set up during the Covid-19 Pandemic, in the third UK national lockdown, February 2021.

It is a response to feedback from the many groups across Essex who support families with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Support groups have seen an increase in the number of contacts being made by parents to their group or service.
The experiences of young people and their families are ever shifting in these difficult times and support groups requested a weekly opportunity to share the lived experiences and issues that are being raised by young people and their families around Education, Social Care and Health services.

Purpose and aims
The Family Support Group drop-in will provide an additional, timely route for communication with the many groups across the whole of Essex that support parents and families with children and young people with SEND in these unprecedented times.

The drop-in will provide a weekly opportunity for representatives from Parent Support groups in all four quadrants to share the lived experiences, questions and issues that are being raised by the parents that they represent.

The team facilitating the drop-in will aim to give written responses to the support groups, so that consistent responses can be shared with families within a short time period. These responses will be published on the Essex Local Offer so that all families, regardless of their membership to a represented group, can access the answers and information.

The group will be facilitated by the SEND Navigation Leads from Essex County Council along with representatives from The Essex Family Forum, key staff from the Local Authority Education Quadrants and representatives from Health and Social Care.

The sessions will be open to representatives from Parent Support Groups from across Essex.

The drop-in will also be open to representatives from the Multi-School Council so that the experiences, questions and issues that are being raised through the council by children and young people are included.

Structure and format of drop-ins
The drop-ins will take place on a weekly basis starting on Thursday 28 January 2021.
These will be virtual drop-ins carried out via Microsoft Teams. The drop-in will be scheduled for an hour, from 10am to 11am.
During the lockdown, these sessions will be held on a weekly basis.

Parent Group representatives will bring along their priorities for that week and they will be recorded on a Microsoft Team whiteboard during the drop-in.

The facilitating team will aim to answer any questions in the drop-in that they can. When questions need input from other professionals, who are not in attendance at the drop-in, the SEND Navigation Leads will seek clarification and answers to these after the drop-in.

Sharing the themes and questions/responses
The aim would be that themes could be responded to in the first instance during the meeting and addressed by the relevant representatives from Education, Health and Social Care who attend each week. This would ensure that themes/questions were addressed in an immediate way for groups present to feedback to parents.

After the meeting has taken place, the SEND Navigation Leads will share themes and information with relevant teams, services and groups as agreed in the weekly drop-ins. They will seek clarification around any themes that were unable to be addressed during the meeting itself.

Common themes, general questions and the responses will be published on the Essex Local Offer so that consistent responses can then be shared with families. These will be published as soon as possible after the meeting so that there is an immediacy to the response.

The common themes, general questions and the responses will also be shared with Education and Social care teams within Essex County Council (through a Microsoft Teams) so that all colleagues can stay informed with the experiences and priorities for the children, young people and families.

A summary of the themes that are raised will also be shared with Headteachers across Essex via the Schools Communication Team.

Due to the open nature of the session there will not be an opportunity to answer questions about individual children or school situations during the drop-ins. All situations must be shared anonymously.
If specific or further details are required for follow up by a team (Local Authority or Health), the correct email contact details will be shared either during or following the drop-in for further conversation or correspondence.

Correct procedure for complaints
It is expected that parents will always be advised by Support Groups of the correct procedure for sharing their concerns with their child’s school or college in the first instance. This drop-in is not a mechanism to raise an individual concern about a school, college or Early Years setting.

Monitoring and evaluation
The initial set of drop-ins will be evaluated after 4 weeks. This will take into account take up from the groups, feedback from the groups about the effectiveness of the session and the national picture with regards to the pandemic and lockdown.