Hi there from the members of Essex Family Forum, the parent carer forum for Essex.

We are a voluntary organisation of committed parents and carers of children and young people who have additional needs and disabilities. We are a constituted group and not a charity or community interest company. We have two part-time paid development workers but our Management Committee and Family Champions are all volunteers.

Our role is to ensure that the lived experiences of families in Essex are heard. It is our belief that if we can work with service providers from Education, Health and Social Care that the outcomes for those families will improve.

We receive part of our funding from the Department for Education. There are 148 of the 150 parent carer forums in the UK that receive this funding. We also have funding from our local authority, Essex County Council (52% of parent carer forums have local authority funding). Having this funding allows us to focus solely on creating the connections in the community to reach out to as many families as we can, without the cost and distractions of fundraising.

This funding can raise concerns about our independence. Every local authority, by law, must work in partnership with a parent carer forum to help deliver appropriate services to the families that use them. As volunteers, we have the freedom to give frank and honest feedback when highlighting issues with services or when we are approached to help co-produce a new service affecting our families. This spirit of co-production is hoped to improve the outcomes for both the families involved and the service providers.

This process is by no means perfect but it is our belief that if we work with the service providers in the spirit of co-production we will achieve more and positively affect the lives of families in Essex.

Yours,

The Essex Family Forum