Parents and professionals all want the best support, services and outcomes for children and young people in Manchester but we all have different pressures and expectations and conflicting priorities. So it is in everyone’s best interest to find ways to work effectively together and to build relationships.
The following are key messages from the findings of local research* exploring the working relationship between professionals and parents/carers of children with a special educational need or disability.
* Exploring the Barriers to Parental Engagement and involvement in Children’s Services 2013 by Maureen Howell, Manchester Metropolitan University
1. Working Together
Boundaries and Expectations
Professionals should explain their role and be clear about what parents can and cannot expect from them. If they cannot help with a particular issue they will, whenever possible, advise parents on where further help can be obtained.Parents should ask for clarification if they are not clear about the role of a professional. They should also recognise that a professional may not be able to solve all their problems, and not expect the impossible!
Professionals will listen to what all parents have to say. They will bear in mind that parents will express themselves in many different ways. They will consider the communication needs of families when appropriate.
Parents will be as clear as possible about what they need. It is useful to prepare in advance for meetings and write down any questions if it helps. Parents will listen carefully to professionals, and ask for clarification or further information if they need it.
Dealing with difficult relationships
Professionals should recognise that, for a variety of reasons, families sometimes find it hard to engage with professionals. In the interest of the child/young person involved, they will continue to seek ways to work together and make sure parents understand the reasons for any difference in views.
Parents should understand that there may be times when professionals do not agree with their views. When this happens parents should ask the professional to explain their reasons clearly. Remember both parents and professionals are working together to do the best for your child/young person.
Professionals will have a good knowledge of what support and services are available and appropriate. Developing and improving this knowledge will be an ongoing process. The information should be provided in a format accessible to the family they are working with.
Parents will investigate the 'Local Offer' in whatever format is available and suitable. The better informed parents can be, the more they can play an active role in obtaining the best help for their children.
3. Consultation and Influencing
Professionals will ensure parents have the chance to influence the way services in Manchester are developed and improved. There will be formal and informal opportunities to do this.
Parents should give constructive feedback on services they use and on other issues, where appropriate. This may be their own views, or those of a group they represent. Parents should be clear if they are speaking on behalf of other parents, and make sure they are able to provide feedback to them.