Impartial support for parents
SENDIASS provides volunteers who support parents when dealing with schools or the local authority.
Independent parental supporters (IPS)
We aim to provide an independent parental supporter (IPS) to parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), whatever level of SEN support the child or young person receives (SEN Support, with an education, health and care plan) and whatever the special educational need.
If you would like an Independent Parental Supporter to assist you, or would like to volunteer contact us.
An IPS can help by:
- explaining letters and reports
- helping parents to write letters or reports
- explaining jargon or how the council works
- negotiating on behalf of a parent
- providing practical support before, during and after meetings
- supporting a parent if they wish to appeal against an local authority or school decision
Who are our volunteers?
Independent parental supporters are volunteers who come from all areas of Oxfordshire and have a range of interests and expertise.
They often join the scheme because they have an interest in special educational needs, having worked in education or having been the parent of a child with special needs themselves. More details can be found in our leaflet Make a difference (pdf format, 74Kb).
Make a difference: become a volunteer Independent Parental Supporter from Oxfordshire County Council on Vimeo.
Volunteer as an independent parental supporter
Why did you become a volunteer independent parental supporter (IPS)?
I’ve got a disabled son who has had lots of problems and I’ve been given some extensive support from the SENDIASS people in the past, so I thought it was important that after I sorted my son out, that I could give something back and contribute to some of those other parents that are struggling like I was.
Well partly because as a parent of a child with special needs, having a few difficult times, I knew what it was like, but because I run a parent support group and I have seen so many parents who are struggling and I didn’t feel equipped to help.
I’ve been a professional for many years in special education and I thought it would be a good thing to do when I retired.
I had to use the service myself for trying to get my son into a special education needs school about two years ago now and they gave me the support and help and it was something that I learned a lot from, so I now am giving back to other parents.
How much time does it take up?
As much as you like, so you can spend sort of half an hour on the phone reassuring the parent and that can be the end of the case, or you can end up spending a few hours a week on a more complex case, but it is really up to you what you take on and how much time you give to it.
It takes as much as you want to give really and you are in control of that, you can say if you want to have a case or if you want to just take it easy for a while.
You can do it five days a week or you can do it one day a week or once a month, it all depends on yourself and it is all about your own lifestyle so you commit to what you can commit to.
What do you enjoy the most about being an IPS?
Everything, I enjoy it very much.
Empowering parents to feel that they get the best for their child.
I think it is being able to give back to other people and to help them and support them in the problems they have.
Making a difference to parents, seeing parents actually going to meetings and some of them coming out having a positive response towards their child and seeing them coming out happier.
I think the fact that it does make a difference when you go to a school or a meeting with a parent, you can sense that people are aware that you are there and that you are there to support a parent and the parent is more confident.
What support do you get in your role?
I get a lot of support because if I have any problems I can call the office by phone.
We get good training, we get expenses paid, we get e-mail support and where we need it there is one-to-one support as well available for those more complex cases,
There is always someone at the end of the phone or an e-mail and they are people with wide knowledge and it gives you a lot of confidence.
We go on training courses and we have dates where we meet up and we chat amongst ourselves as volunteers.
What would you say to someone thinking of becoming an IPS?
Go and do it, it is worth it.
Go ahead and give it a go, it’s a very interesting and rewarding experience.
If you are a good listener and you’ve got some spare time, you could give it a go because you don’t need to be skilled in any area, you don’t need to have an educational background, you just need to be willing to help other people and to listen.
I’d say certainly find out about it and chat to the SENDIASS and do the training, it’s well worth it.
Give it a try, because with training you will make a real impact and you will be able to support parents, so go for it.
Just go for it, it really is an absolutely fantastic opportunity and you’ll get such rewarding and you will get such a lot out of it, so yes, definitely go for it.
Independent supporters for young people
If your young person is over 16 and would like support in their own right, they can contact CHYPPS (Children and Young People’s Partnership Service) on 01865810516 or e-mail CHYPPS@oxfordshire.gov.uk to ask us to find someone who can support them.
We can provide support by helping them make a request for an Education health and care needs assessment or attend meetings with them to help them get their views across.
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