Family Champion Model – How it works

The Essex Family Forum wants to make sure it connects with as many families as possible to ensure their lived experience informs services and opportunities for children and young people with additional needs and/or disabilities in Essex. There are many family groups, networks and support systems in Essex which are well established and work well. The forum does not in any way wish to replace or replicate any of these groups, but we would like to connect and work with all these groups to act as a conduit to bring forth a loud and clear voice of families. We see the family champion role as an efficient way to do this.

What does the role look like?

• As a forum we would like all the family groups, networks and support systems in Essex to each name their family champion. This is a person who they feel will represent their group and the lived experiences of the families in their group. We have developed a one page profile to help groups think about who may be the most appropriate person within their group.

• The group does not need to be a large organisation, we know that they take on many forms; from a handful of parents meeting in their local coffee shop or someone’s kitchen, to those that are long-established and able to offer a range of services for families.

• In Essex we will provide training to prospective family champions to support them in being able to carry out their role. We will ensure they have the resources to help them decide if this is a role they want to undertake.

• The Essex Family Forum will periodically bring all the family champions together to share experiences and allow opportunities to network.

• The family champion would attend the local area meetings of the forum along with the other family champions – this will allow them to share the main issues and challenges the families they represent are facing and share what is working well.

• Local area meetings will bring together families and other invited invested parties to look at specific local issues. The goal is to work together to look for realistic, attainable solutions.
• The forum will make sure that all relevant issues are fed up through the system to the decision makers at the local authority and in the CCGs so that issues can be dealt with.
• The forum will also be a conduit to ensure that information from the local authority and the CCGS is passed on to the groups that the family champions represent.
• The forum may be asked to undertake tasks, for example to gather the views of families about a specific plan.

• The family champions will have the opportunity for support and where possible opportunities for further training and coaching to continue to develop their own skills.

The graphic below shows the model and its communication pathways

Why do we think this model will work?

We know from our own families’ experiences that there are many thriving and effective family groups, networks and support systems that work well for families. We also know there is often a sense of frustration that these families are not heard by the people who influence services and opportunities for children and young people in Essex with additional needs and/or disabilities.

The local authority now has a duty to support and listen to their parent carer forum as it conforms to the Children and Families Act 2014. We have set up the Essex Family Forum to be a pathway to ensure the voices of families in Essex are heard. We think the way to do this is to reach out to the many groups here in Essex asking them to choose their champion to be one of many voices within the Essex Family Forum. By doing this we can ensure that the local authority and the CCGs are hearing the experiences and challenges faced by as many families as possible from all over the county from various diverse groups.

This model allows us to very quickly hear the views of hundreds of families across the county; this will also allow us to communicate information and messages out to these same families.