Preparing for adulthood
On 22 March 2016, we joined over fifty parents at the Bright Futures conference organised by Information advice support (IASS). The key note speaker was Jane Friswell, pictured above – a fascinating role model for any parent, whether their child has a disability or not. Jane was one of the first special needs teachers to be trained in the country and until recently the CEO for NASEN. Her anecdotes were entertaining and poignant, especially about her son needing help with travelling independently. The Local Offer is already trying to identify who provides travel training in Northamptonshire.
The message at the conference was to start thinking about the future early. What does the young person want to do? How will they get training? Experience? What skills will they need, such as travel training.
We have a tile on the Local Offer where we have already shortlisted some useful information. It is called My adult life. (The cartoon character is Brad, who now works as an ambassador for the Learning Disability Partnership Board.)
Brad was also the opening speaker at the young people’s conference "Moving On Up" talking about his experiences of working and growing up.
This was Julia’s first event on her own since joining the team as a development worker in January 2016. You can find out about her from her one page profile on the Local Offer Get Involved Page. Julia was also able to meet more of our partners from Northants Parent forum group (NPFG) as their information stand was next to the Local Offer. They are campaigning around the county at the moment, offering opportunities for parents to talk to them, and inviting parents to become active on the NPFG to influence the future of services in Northamptonshire.
Learning Disability Partnership Board “Its all about you” conference
Also on 22 March, Leanne was at the Learning Disability Partnership Board (LDPB) event “Its all about you”, sharing information about the Local Offer. Part of this event was to find out about housing options and benefits for people with learning disabilities as they become adults. I have met with the Housing Commissioner for Northamptonshire and she has given these links to the NHS choices pages for supported living and to the adult care web pages for accommodation for younger adults, and an overview of the plans for Northamptonshire. It would be good for Northamptonshire if there were a broker for this. Perhaps our NPFG representatives can influence this?
Housing is definitely something that needs planning well in advance to get the right sort of accommodation.
Early years inclusion events
The 22 March was a pretty busy day; while Julia and Leanne were at their conferences, I was talking to Early Years providers in Wellingborough as part of their Inclusion network sessions. These sessions are held every term and delivered to special needs staff in Early Years across South Northants, Kettering and Corby, Northampton, and Wellingborough.
When the Children and Families Act 2014 became the law, the providers of early years child care in Northamptonshire (playgroups and nurseries) both voluntary and independent, received lots of training and information about how the children with disabilities and special needs should be supported. It was one of the first events that the Local Offer team went along to talk at. We were invited to speak again as a refresher and update for the early years settings. So far more than 50% of them have registered on the Local Offer so that parents can find details about how they support young children. We expect to see more of this over the next few months as they all check their settings on the Local Offer. It will be a bit of a campaign over the summer months to encourage the remainder to register.
However, one of the best things is the amazing news that in Northamptonshire, only five children (known to Portage) with an SEN haven’t been placed in a suitable nursery or playgroup. Only one child has not been able to find a suitable early years setting as the parents of the other 4 chose to keep them at home. This compares with a staggering 40%, reported in a recent report from Contact a family (levelling the playing field), who were unable to place children in a suitable setting.
Part of this confidence that parents have is the quality of the staff, who have attended training provided by the local authority giving them skills to support children with special educational needs. Details are on the Early years training page (there is a link on the Local Offer). The Portage manager expressed her huge thanks on behalf of young children in Northamptonshire. Well done to our Early Years providers for a good job supporting little ones with special needs.
Northamptonshire Improvement Mentor Programme will be providing lots of training in the future, and the Early Years advisors recommend joining this for only £10.00 per setting per annum.