How is Bolton Doing?

Our “How is Bolton Doing?” sessions bring together parents and carers and Bolton professionals in informal sessions. Parents and carers are able to share their views and experiences directly with the SEND professionals who can make a difference locally. Sometimes these kind of sessions are called focus groups, or listening groups; the key point of them is that professionals attend to do the listening and parents and carers do the talking. Find out more about the sessions and also when our next ones are…

Who attends?

At the session we invite professionals to come and be part of the conversation, we have a very good response to this in Bolton, we have had representatives from the council, education, health and social care. Additionally we also include what is discussed at the sessions in our regular feedback to the LA SEND Steering Group.

What happens at the session?

We split into smaller groups of 4-5 parents, this makes it easier for everyone to have a chance to speak. Each group has a host to facilitate the conversation and at least one professional to listen. There is a chance to write your comments on our boards too.

Does it really make a difference?

Yes! Nothing is going to change overnight, but the impact of hearing real-life experiences is very powerful. There is a duty on service providers to listen to parents and carers, and this is one way of doing it. See below for how recent events have influenced Bolton’s SEND offer.

What are the topics?

We theme the sessions so that we can can really on focus on specific issues. Coming up in 2024 we will have sessions on Bolton’s key priorities for SEND. We can then make sure the professionals that attend are the key people locally for the theme.

What should I talk about?

It’s important to hear about struggles you have had navigating services and systems, it’s also important to hear about the people and services that you find fabulous! We like to hear about your suggestions too, to make things better – sometimes simple changes would make a huge difference, it just takes someone to suggest it!

Is it formal?

No – we make the sessions as informal as possible, for better conversation. There’s a break for refreshments, brunch at the morning session and wine and nibbles at the evening one. This may vary due to covid times, however there will always be refreshments.

Dates for 2024 sessions coming soon.

Some examples of how parent carer views have influenced local developments…

You shared what it’s like when your child has SEN, but doesn’t have an EHC Plan.

We worked with the council as part of a wider task group to create a Bolton approach to SEN Support. this was launched in January 2021 with the Bolton SEND Handbook updated with a wealth of resources. More about this project is on our Coproduction Examples page of the website.

You shared that Post-16 is an area where you feel there are few opportunities in Bolton.

A dedicated forum has now been set up with the aim to improving this for Bolton young people and families. This forum is chaired by Bernie Brown, Director of Children’s Services and is working at pace to improve opportunities.

You explained that it is hard to find information locally and the local offer website is very poor.

Bolton Parent Carers are now working jointly with the council to develop a new local offer website. Phase One was launched in January 2022. Further developments of the Local Offer will be ongoing, to read more about this you can click here.

You shared your experiences of the Autism and ADHD pathways.

This led to significant changes improving both pathways locally. The biggest ask by parents and carers was for post diagnostic support, this is a broad project that is being addressed by the newly formed Bolton Autism Forum.

You discussed how ‘Supported Internships’ would work for your family.

At a session based on Supported Internships in Bolton, you shared how you felt supported internships would benefit your children/young people. You raised some important issues that hadn’t been considered around finances for your families and also how much as a parent or carer you would still have to be supporting your young person to be able to access a supported internship, including travel support and organisational support.