What are our hopes for our children?
It couldn’t happen to me, could it?
When we talk about the experiences of our Stronger Together families, many parents just can’t relate. As the saying goes, “if I had a pound ………” for every parent who thinks it couldn’t happen to them or think perhaps we over exaggerate, then I could fund a full time legal team for these families.
I have to be honest, I was one of those parents. I had followed all the campaigns and given what support I could offer but I didn’t relate. How could I? My children are at home and my biggest challenge is getting schools and social care to comply with legislation. Surely, this sort of stuff happened to other people, I didn’t have to worry, did I? I had nothing in common with these families.
It took sitting in a room at our first Stronger Together event and hearing two comments to make me realise I had much more in common than I thought.
The first comment was from a mum talking about what she missed about her son – he was in an ATU at the time. Her words were
“He has a real zest for life and I miss that every single day”
It made me stop in my tracks. My children make me laugh every single day. The system may make me cry but no matter how shit a day I have had, I can pretty much guarantee that my kids will do or say something that makes me laugh.
How would I feel if I couldn’t see my children every day?
This comment kept playing in my head on repeat. This was an intelligent mum. This was a mum involved in so many different aspects of the SEND world. The more she talked about her son, the more it sounded like our children had been separated at birth!
Then I walked past another mum who said
“it went wrong in education, and then it went downhill from there”
Again, here was a mum who was active in the SEND world talking about something I could relate to. It all going wrong in Education.
If you are one of the few lucky people who have had no issues with education, then you only have to look at Facebook or Twitter for ten minutes and without much effort, you can find many many parents who are struggling to get it “right in education”. However, I know many of you will relate personally to the “it went wrong in education”. How many times have you hoped it would just get sorted?
Despite all the lovely quotes such as “we are spending more than ever” from the Government, we all know that Education is in crisis.
Some schools are doing all they can to provide for our children while others are seeing our children as a financial and time consuming burden and doing all they can to get rid.
Some LAs are trying really hard to make sure our children’s needs are met, others are wasting vast sums of their precious resources on legal representation at Tribunals – where amost 90% of families win their case.
How often do we think of the long term consequences of it going wrong in education?
If it goes wrong in Education, how do we think it is going to go better when they are out of Education?
What happens when they move to Adult services?
Does anyone believe it will just turn out ok?
Are any of us really sure that “this couldn’t happen to me”?
Our hopes for our children
When we think about our hopes for our children, you would expect it to be related to what is happening in our lives at the time. If our child is younger, perhaps we are hoping for a good nursery or primary school. If they are in Year 6, perhaps we are hoping for a good secondary provision. If they are in need of equipment, maybe the hope is for a better funded NHS or Social Care.
At our last event, we asked parents to tell us about their hopes for their children. You may have expected a list of things to do with them coming out of an ATU. However, once again, their response shows how much we all have in common.
Read through this list and see how many you can relate to.
Do any of them ring a bell? Are they the same hopes you have for your children. Let’s be honest, even if our children don’t have any special educational need or disability, we can all relate to this list.
These families could be you.
One thing I have learned as a parent is how quickly time passes. One day they are in a moses basket, the next they are a teenager with hormones, opinions and attitude! So much attitude!
Never too early
It is never too early to start looking at what the future may look like for you and your child. Start asking questions, chatting to other parents of other children and providers now. If you go to any disability conference or show, ask the providers there what they offer in your area. Keep asking questions. Check out what your local authority is doing with Transforming Care – if anything.
Never too late
Most importantly, however, it’s never too late to show your support for the families of the 3000 children and young people stuck in ATUs. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes looking at a campaign can be really helpful. It may be that you have an idea – don’t be afraid to suggest something. It may have been tried before but you won’t know if you stay quiet.
If you are a blogger, write about the ATUs and the families. If you are on social media, share or retweet their story. If you do a podcast, interview a parent or talk about campaigns you have found.
We really are Stronger Together.
The more we work together, the more chance we have that our hopes for our children become a reality. We can also say with much more certainty “this couldn’t happen to us”.
Debs is one of the co-founders and Directors of Bringing Us Together. She is mum to three child with a variety of SEND and has a great husband.