We asked parents, carers and young people to help us write our new participation and co-production policy.

Parents and carers

At the Dorset Parent Carer Council (DPCC) Information Day on 23 April 2018 we had a stand and we spoke to parents and carers about creating a policy and asked them to tell us what they thought needed to be in the policy to make it work. 

We also asked parents and carers to help us write definitions of 'participation' and 'co-production' that were clear and easy to understand. 

We showed parents and carers our draft vision statement and they told us they agreed with it. 

We wrote a rough draft of a policy, based on what parents and carers had told us.

Working with the DPCC, we wrote to parents and carers and invited them to get involved. 

With support from the DPCC we visited groups of parents to discuss why we wanted to create a policy and what it would be used for. We showed parents our draft and asked for comments. 

Our draft version got longer and longer...

Parents and carers told it needed to be 'easy-read' and 'clear and short' so we decided it would be a one-page policy. We cut out lots of information and decided we could use the parts we'd cut out as part of our participation and co-production guidance. 

We shared the final draft of our policy with the DPCC and they suggested some changes. We agreed that the draft policy needed to go out to all parents and carers as a hard copy (on paper) to make sure they had seen it. 

We sent out the final draft of the policy to 2,400 parents with the DPCC autumn newsletter and asked parents for their comments.

We wrote an article about the policy in the November 2018 edition of the Xchange newsletter which goes out to 1,200 families. We sent a link to the policy and asked parents and carers for their comments. 

We put the draft policy on the Local Offer, together with the easy read policy that was created by young people. 

Young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)

We worked with some young people with SEND.

Participation and co-production policy image 3
Working on the participation and co-production policy with young people with SEND.

We worked with them to help them understand what a policy is. 

The young people learnt about what participation is and what co-production means. 

The young people wrote down their ideas about what should be in our policy to make it a good policy. 

We used the young people's ideas to write the easy-read version of our policy. 

We shared the easy-read policy with some young people with SEND. We created an easy-read survey for the young people to complete to tell us what they thought of the policy. We made sure the young people had support, if they needed it, to look at the policy and to fill in the survey.

Once we'd received all the comments from young people and parents and carers we made a few final changes to the policy. We shared both the final draft of the policy and the easy-read version with the members of the SEND Delivery Board. This board has membership from parents, carers, education, health and social care. The board has been receiving regular updates about our work to develop the policy and had seen the various versions as we developed them. The SEND Delivery Board signed off the final plan in December 2018.

Lessons learnt from this work

Attempts to arrange meetings with parents specifically to look at this work were not very successful, but the strategy of going out to parents and joining them in existing groups to ask for their input was productive. This is very much the way forward in terms of engagement, participation and co-production. 

It was disappointing that we received little feedback in response to sending the draft policy out to all 2,400+ families. We held a lessons learnt meeting with some member of the DPCC to discuss this and parents suggested a number of issues and causes:

  • what matters to parents and young people is 'the results, not another bit of paper'. They read it and now it's down to us to get on and do it!
  • survey and consultation fatigue; there have been a number of surveys recently
  • the stresses of being a parent of a child with SEND means this isn't a priority

In terms of involving young people with SEND with this, what worked well was using a very small group so that we could make sure young people had all the support they needed and weren't rushed.

Going to meet other young people to tell them about our work and ask them to tell us what they thought about our policy was a really positive experience, with young people engaging well. 

Next steps

Publish and promote the policy.

We also plan to complete:

  • the guidance and toolkit referenced in the plan with parents and young people; it's partially completed so far
  • the participation standards referenced in the policy with parents and young people