Section 5 - Developing Parent Participation

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1 Section 5 - Developing Parent Participation d) Training Subject: How to Improve Skills and Knowledge through Training Who this is for: Particularly relevant to members of parent forums What this section is about: Building your core group Building your wider membership Acquiring more skills as the forum grows Training resources Participation training for practitioners

2 5d) Training: How to Improve Skills and Knowledge through Training All the parents and carers who become active members of a forum are used to finding out about services for their own child. Being a member of a forum though, is a different situation. You are no longer working as an individual but as part of a team. Parent forums are usually made up of very passionate and committed parents, not all of whom can be expected to see eye- toeye on all subjects, all of the time! It is worth acknowledging this as a group right from the start, thereby making it clear to all members that they are equal partners in the team. Teamwork may be a whole new mindset and training can help towards building effective and lasting partnerships both within the forum and also with service commissioners and providers. Building Your Core Group It is helpful to build up the skills of your core forum members who are probably on the steering group. You can tackle this as follows. 1 Identify the skills you need to run the forum. The basic ones usually include: chairing meetings book keeping (simple accounts) taking notes or minutes of meetings writing (leaflets, articles) speaking and making presentations to an audience negotiating (and influencing) conflict resolution and accepting each other s strength and weaknesses being representative understanding the structure and commissioning of services in your area having a wider knowledge and understanding of the bigger national picture 2 Carry out a skills audit among your members. It is a very good team building exercise to ask members what they did before they knew each other purely as parents of disabled children. It will highlight all the useful skills you have amongst you early on and any skill gaps. However, it is good practice to rotate tasks and Together for Disabled Children 2010 Page 2 of 6 Version 2.0 March 2010

3 avoid burnout and so you should also identify if anyone would like to develop a particular skill. 3 Look for local training. There may be skilled parents who do not wish to be on the committee but would be happy to train a committee member. Inexpensive courses are often provided by the local Council for Voluntary and Community Organisations. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) may also have some useful training. Check also for Early Support training (see below) as the Working in Partnership Course offers a useful insight into working with service providers as equals. This national programme has led the way on true partnership working with parents. Building Your Wider Membership The most important thing is to have a range of parents who can represent all parents on task groups and working parties. Some parents may be very articulate but poor listeners. Some parents lose confidence if they have not worked for a while; some feel inadequate because of their lack of formal education or difficulty with written English; some are wonderful listeners whose diplomacy wins the heart of professionals yet they have never seen themselves as representing others. Recruiting these parents will help secure the future of local participation because they will inspire others to give it a go. A good way to attract parents is to offer tailor made informal training through friendly workshops with an experienced facilitator. The general subject could be How to be a parent rep on a working party and the topics covered could be: being assertive (how to win friends and influence people) listening skills speaking up with confidence how to comfortably use personal experiences to illustrate a general problem whilst protecting your own well being disability awareness (understanding the impact on families of physical, learning and sensory impairments) reporting back to other parents meeting etiquette and conduct These training days not only provide information and resources but are also a really good way of building confidence in working together. Together for Disabled Children 2010 Page 3 of 6 Version 2.0 March 2010

4 It is often valuable to use an external facilitator who is perceived as neutral and independent. However, a presentation from a parent (How I overcame my fears and became a rep) can inspire others. Example: Bury Parent Partnership Together Trust runs confidence and skill building courses for parents of disabled children in children s centres around Bury. Each course consists of six sessions, each lasting two hours, with six to eight participants. The sessions are: confidence and communication (aims, hopes and fears); having your say (how to contribute constructively and listen to others); preparing for speaking at meetings (different types of meetings); parents forum (what it is, how to use it and future plans); personal development plans (individual skills audit and how to access training); certificates and vouchers (evaluations, certificates for attending and high street vouchers of your choice, future of group). Acquiring More Skills as the Forum Grows In some areas, parent forums are increasingly taking on information, consultation and participation roles and tasks. These include: writing newsletters developing websites research: questionnaires, telephone interviews, writing up reports training parents and training trainers to pass on skills fundraising equal opportunities employing your first paid worker sitting on interview panels for professional colleagues undertaking commissioned pieces of work Again, it is worth checking among the wider membership for any trainers in these topics. Local colleges and the NCVO offer courses on IT, writing, fundraising, and employment. Training Resources There are some other very good ways of developing parents knowledge and skills: look out for local, regional and national conferences in your area. Parents can often have free or reduced price places and it is a great way to keep up with Together for Disabled Children 2010 Page 4 of 6 Version 2.0 March 2010

5 policy and new ideas. Make sure that the delegate reports back to the wider forum so that everyone is up-to-date sign up to Interconnections Electronic Bulletin about children and young people (0-25) with disabilities/special needs (see the resources section for details). This is a free monthly bulletin that goes to over 10,000 people in all parts of the UK and Ireland and then finds its way into many other networks and countries. See Together for Disabled Children has a list of trainers who provide training on parent participation see: Partners in Policymaking is a leadership training course for disabled adults and parents of disabled children. Many parents have found this training inspirational The Face 2 Face foundation training course is carefully designed to help befrienders handle different situations - to make sure they have the skills and knowledge to support new parents. However, much of the material is very relevant to those involved in parent and carer forums. Participants will understand the range and variety of emotions around parents discovery of a child s disability, develop skills in self-awareness and communication and be aware of their own capacity for empathy Early Support training has been designed to help local authorities and others deliver training of the highest quality specifically to improve services for families. The training is flexible and adaptable to meet the differing needs of participants, be they parents and carers, practitioners or managers. It can be delivered in a variety of settings, in a wide range of formats and in a flexible number of sessions. Guidance on delivery, guidance for managers and support materials for trainers and participants accompany every element of the training Parents are welcomed on all Early Support training but the most relevant course for parents and carers is the set of parents workshops, which are written by parents for parents, and are always led by parent trainers. They follow the family s journey and a first step towards working with professionals both for your own child and for others in your local area Two of the courses are accredited - Working in Partnership through Early Support and Supporting Children with Additional Needs and with Disabilities. Participation Training for Practitioners Sometimes professionals need training to work with parents and carers forums. Scope s Strengthening Families training course is suitable for anyone who works with or supports parents and families who have a disabled child or a child with additional Together for Disabled Children 2010 Page 5 of 6 Version 2.0 March 2010

6 support needs. It aims to provide the basic skills to work empathically with families, to support them through emotional times and help build stronger relationships within the family. years/strengthening-families.php. Some local areas have worked with parents to provide training for professionals in participation. Examples: Bracknell Forest The parent forum set up half-day training sessions for practitioners from health, social care, SEN and voluntary organisations. The training was delivered by a parent with experience of training, assisted by three other parents. Feedback showed that the training fostered good working relationships and enabled both practitioners and parents to understand each other s perspectives. Cornwall Cornwall Parent and Carer Council has produced a DVD of examples of good and poor practice around involving parents in meetings. The development of the DVD involved a range of professionals in Cornwall including a number of commissioners, as well as parents. As well as producing a training tool, the development of this piece of work identified a number of barriers to effective participation and supported the improvement of partnership and practice between all involved. Together for Disabled Children 2010 Page 6 of 6 Version 2.0 March 2010

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