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Making a difference for parent carers in Bath and North East Somerset

Making a difference for parent carers in Bath & North East Somerset

This is article is adapted from the live interview on The Community Show, a collaboration between The Carers’ Centre, Age UK Bath & North East Somerset and Big Local Radstock & Westfield.

Vicky Batlle, committee member of the Parent Carer Forum in Bath and North East Somerset, first came to Bath twenty years ago. She worked as a Deputy Head teacher until 2018, when her daughter began struggling with anxiety and panic attacks.

“I didn't see myself as a carer at first,” says Vicky. “I think that might be quite a common thing.”

Vicky’s participation into the Parent Carer Forum came through a search for community, for other parents and families who were experiencing similar challenges. In the beginning, she describes being told by external agencies that “this has never happened before, or we've never met anyone else that this has happened to”.

Gradually, however, Vicky realised that the upheavals her family were facing were affecting other families too, on a local and national scale.

“It started as a personal journey that was just affecting us [but] when I looked at the information about the Parent Carer Forum, [I thought] maybe we'd been through experiences that would be useful for other people to hear about as well.” 

What is the Parent Carer Forum?

B&NES Parent Carer Forum (previously B&NES Parent Carer Voice) was established in September 2021. 

They are dedicated to building a community for parent carers and their families, amplifying the voices of parent carers, and working in partnership with local authorities to ensure that inclusivity is a central consideration when it comes to the design, development, and improvement of services for children with disabilities.

The Parent Carer Forum is made up of volunteers, parent carers with children who have an educational, health and care plan living in the Bath and North East Somerset area, between the ages of zero and twenty-five.

We’re working to try and support families, build connection, build communication. [We’re] taking that experience to the service provider and saying, this is what's happening, this is what it's like on the ground.

What difference has the Forum made?

Put simply, the Forum has given parent carers a voice.

Vicky describes the value of creating a shared language between families and support agencies, the opportunity “to come together and to talk about it from a family perspective.”

“Parents are the experts of their children” says Vicky.

The Forum has engaged with many common experiences faced by parent carers, including Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA), the Parental Contribution aspect of the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), as well as working with the Integrated Care Board, looking particularly at the key worker role for young people at risk of being psychiatric inpatients, and many others.

Without the Forum, service providers would be working in isolation. “There genuinely is more strength in numbers,” says Vicky. “It’s a brilliant way of finding out about the things that are actually available.”

Why should people get involved?

The Forum is more than simply a space for the sharing of knowledge or validation. It is a medium for advocating change, too. According to Vicky, “our direction is dictated by parents”.

“The more parents engage with us and use their voices, the more we will be able to go to those service providers and actually work in partnership with them.”

She references transport as one key issue/concern for parent carers. But there are other challenges, too, from what services are available to wait times.

The more voices that come together, the more experiences that are shared, the more likely the Forum will be able to bring about positive change.

“At the end of the day,” explains Vicky, “both service providers and parents want the same thing: the best outcome for the children.”

How can you get involved?

There are many ways to get involved, from becoming a member of the Steering Group to becoming a Parent Carer Rep.

As Vicky says, the Parent Carer Forum is run by volunteers, but “it doesn't have to take up all of your time. It doesn't have to overtake your life. There's lots of different ways to be involved and there's lots of different areas to be involved in.”

Visit the Parent Carer Forum website or visit their Facebook or Instagram pages to learn more.

Parent Carers can also find advice, connect with others, and find out about wellbeing activities through our website.

If you look after someone, The Carers’ Centre is here for you. Join our caring community.

Need to talk? Call our Freephone Support Line on 0800 0388 885 (Mon-Fri, 9am – 1pm)