Welcoming the government's SEND commissioner and working with families and carers

Cllr Sharon Thompson welcomes the new SEND commissioner to Birmingham and talks about how the council will work with all partners to improve services for children with additional needs.

"I’d like to welcome John Coughlan to Birmingham. We have worked well previously with commissioners and both the city council and NHS partners look forward to working with him as we deliver sustainable improvements to the service. John is an experienced chief executive and director of children’s services and I understand that he knows the city well and plans to be here as much as possible. John is accountable to the Secretary of State and we also look forward to working with officials from the Department for Education and the National Health Service as we progress our improvement journey.

"I’m sure he will welcome our commitment to work closely with families and carers. We will listen to their experiences so we can co-produce a better service. One of the things many parents and carers felt frustrated about was lack of engagement and we are committed to ensuring the voice of the child and parent informs everything we do; we must get better at listening to and acting on feedback

"A really important message we had was ‘nothing about us without us’, and feedback from the SEND Youth Forum/RISE Youth Forum was that the word SEND itself is outdated and doesn’t represent them. These amazing young people have asked that we join their campaign to replace it with Children with Additional Needs (CAN) which we are very happy to do, supported by the Parent Carer Forum.

"Choice of language is really important so although we will still need to use SEND in certain arenas, where it is within our gift to decide, we will be using the term CAN.

"We have committed to being transparent about how the service is doing, so updating parents and carers not only about good progress but also where we feel progress has not been good enough, and more importantly how we intend to accelerate progress.

"When I took on this portfolio I vowed to put children and families at the heart of all the work that I will do. Both the council and our partners know that there are fundamental weaknesses in the system which is why we are working with families, schools and all partners to ensure rapid and sustainable improvements.

"I have met a number of families of Children with Additional Needs to listen to their experience and reiterated my commitment to do everything I can to drive forward improvements to the service so children, young people and families truly get the service they need and deserve."

This blog was posted on 20 October 2021.

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