PARENTS of children with special educational needs have celebrated one year of making their voices heard through a new forum to improve local provision.

Swindon SEND Families Voice, which supports and signposts parents – some often fighting for extra support for their children, cut its first birthday cake this week with a number of professionals, members of the council and the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group.

The forum has worked hard to bring parents closer to those in charge of the purse strings and help them understand an opaque system of funding allocation.

Chair of the forum Jacqui Watt told the Adver: “The fact that we have worked hard to built a relationship with the council and the CCG is clear from the number of professionals that joined us here on the day.”

Janet Brown, who has an autistic grandson, said: “A lot of parents don’t know the kind of help that’s out there, but they are doing an absolutely brilliant job.

“As parents sometimes you don’t get listened to. But the children are our future. If you don’t give them the help and support now what are they doing to turn out like as teenagers?”

Parent Ellie Hunt, who has three SEN children, said it helps with the uphill battle to get funding.

“It can be six meetings before you can access educational funding,” she said.

“This can feel interminable when you are waiting for these meetings and your children are already falling behind.

“And when you have already been fighting for so long they can help get something constructive out of it, and help you stay in the positive zone.”

Since the launch last year, the forum’s Facebook group has jumped from 340 members to more than 900.

There are around 2,000 children and young people with an Education and Health Care Plan, which identifies the level of support a local authority must provide.

Gill May, director of nursing and transformation at the Swindon CCG, said: “Not only does Swindon SEND Families Voice provide invaluable support to hundreds of parents and children, but the group also uses its expertise to help implement new initiatives within the local NHS.

“The CCG was fortunate enough to work with the group on the new hidden disability lanyards for children at GWH, and it was a real privilege to witness first-hand their sheer passion for driving forward practical improvements that make things easier for children with learning disabilities. Swindon is richer for having a group like this in the town, and the CCG is committed to working with them again in the future.”