10 Years ago, in May 2014 Bolton Parent Carer Consortium was formed when 6 established groups from Bolton came together: Breaking Barriers, Daytrippers, Parent Partnership*, Kidz2gether, Zacs and BACPAC to form a parent carer forum for Bolton. The impending launch of the 2014 SEND Reforms placed duties on Local Authorities, Health Services, Education and wider partners to ensure that they were working with parents and carers when designing, reviewing and implementing services for children and young people aged 0-25 years. Parent Carer Forums were highlighted as being an ideal way in which to capture parent carer experiences, and to support this the Department for Education introduced a parent participation grant that forums could apply for to support this work.

The SEND reforms, introduced EHC Plans, renamed additional SEN provision in schools as SEN Support, extended SEND responsibility to age 25 and introduced the online Local Offer among many other changes, and the early days and years of the forum life was focused on the introduction and development of all the new-ness that the reforms brought. 10 years on it is hard to remember how complicated it all seemed at the time and how much time was spent simply trying to understand what was supposed to be happening. In some ways, this hasn’t changed, whilst services have the reforms embedded in working practice, for families new to the SEND journey we are all to aware that it appears complicated and daunting.

In 2018 we changed our name and logo as we moved away from the ‘consortium’ set-up. We became Bolton Parent Carers, kept it simple and straight forward! 

It’s hard to pinpoint what the impact of our forum has been over 10 years, mainly because we don’t know what would be different if we hadn’t been around. But we do know that there’s not a meeting, or project or task group where we sit where the experiences of parents and carers isn’t heard loud and clear.

One thing that has remained consistent throughout our 10 years has been our place at a strategic level with local partners. Bernie Brown, Director of Children’s Services in Bolton recently described us as “holding a mirror up to professionals and services” to ensure they have a clear view of how their actions and functions are experienced by families. We feel this is a good reflection of the aim of our forum.

We represent parents and carers with professionalism and with a deep understanding of all the factors that affect services locally and nationally. We know and understand what is possible locally and what needs to be challenged nationally to improve the experiences of our local families. As we go into our 11th year. our focus remains on being the voice at the table that ensures all your voices are heard too.

*Parent Partnership became Bolton Information Advisory Service for SEND (IASS) in September 2014 as part of the SEND reforms.