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Role of an Independent Parental Supporter

What are Independent Parental Supporters?

Independent Parental Supporters (IPS's) are trained volunteers, many of whom are parents of children with additional needs. They provide confidential information, advice and practical support to families.

The Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) expects Parent Partnership Services to use their "best endeavours" to recruit and train volunteer Independent Parental Supporters (IPS's).

Parent Partnership Services should be able to provide access to an Independent Parental Supporter (IPS) for all parents who want one.

The Code defines an IPS as:

Someone who can support parents for example by attending meetings, encouraging parental participation, and helping the parent understand the SEN framework.

Independent means

Someone independent of the decision making process that determines the type and level of support for a child with special educational needs.

Independent Parental Supporters will often be someone from a voluntary organisation, a parent partnership service, another parent or a friend.

What qualities and skills does an IPS need to have?

First and foremost an IPS needs to be willing to listen to parents and support them to make decisions. It will be helpful if the IPS has an interest in education and special educational needs. The accredited IPS course will provide the IPS with a broad knowledge base. An IPS will need to attend ongoing training, seek out information for parents and recognise when s/he needs to ask for help. It is important that an IPS respects confidentiality, is reliable and trustworthy, and can see things through.

How might an IPS support parents and the Parent Partnership Service?

An IPS might be asked to help parents by:

- Listening to parental concerns
- Helping parents to understand the Statutory Assessment process and the professionals involved
- Helping them to express their views with confidence both verbally and in writing
- Helping with reading through and making sense of letters and reports
- Assisting with writing letters or completing forms
- Supporting parents at meetings, taking notes and discussing with parents what has been said and agreed
- Accompanying parents on visits to schools or early years settings
- Making contact with other local and national agencies/sources of help

An IPS may help the Parent Partnership Service by:

- Updating the resource library and offering books and publications out on loan to parents
- Producing a newsletter
- Hosting coffee mornings/drop ins
- Helping schools to maintain resources for parents and information about SEN
- Distributing information for parents in the Authority (i.e. at Customer Advice Centres, Health Centres, GP surgeries, dentists, pre-schools)
- Helping in the office with the paperwork

A good Independent Parental Supporter is:

- Someone you can trust and feel comfortable with;
- Someone who knows the education system or is willing to find out;
- Someone who can help you decide what you want, rather than telling you what to do;
- Someone who is good at seeing things through; and
- Someone with some free time. 2004

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