What is a Parent Carer Forum?

by | Feb 7, 2023 | Updates | 0 comments

Find out more about Parent Carer Forums

A Parent Carer Forum is a group of parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who work with local authorities, education settings, health providers and other providers to make sure that the services they commission, plan and deliver meet the needs of disabled children and families.

Parent Carer Forums do this by gathering the views of local families and then working in partnership across the local area. We use lived experiences and other information we gather to highlight where local services, processes and commissioners are working well, or challenge when changes or improvements need to be made.

This video from Contact explains what a Parent Carer Forum is and what they do.


How do Parent Carer Forums work?

Almost all local authority areas in England have a parent carer forum – over 150 in all. In Devon, this is Parent Carer Forum Devon. We are funded by grants from the Department for Education, the local authority and NHS Devon, but work independently to improve the lives of children and young people with SEND and their families.

Across Devon, we want to hear from as many parent carers of children and young people with SEND as possible. We gather and understand the experiences and views of families in many ways. We use this knowledge and information when we work with providers and decision-makers.

Parent Carer Forum Devon is part of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums, which means that the voices of parent carers in Devon reach decision-makers in national government.

Who can get involved

Parent carers can often pinpoint problems frequently experienced by families with disabled children. Understanding these experiences is useful to professionals as they plan services to meet disabled children’s needs.

When professionals and parents work together this is called parent carer participation. By recognising each other’s expert knowledge, they work as partners to design, develop and improve services for children with SEND in the local area.

We welcome all parents or carers of a child with any type of additional need or disability to get involved. This does not mean you have to commit lots of time. You can start off by joining our Facebook community, and then decide if you want to get more involved at your own pace.

Parent Carer Forum Devon shares the lived experiences of families in the local area but does not advocate for or work on behalf of individual families.

Watch this video about the benefits of getting involved with your Parent Carer Forum.


Coproduction is an important principle in parent carer participation.

Coproduction is when parent carer forums play an integral and equal part in the decision-making process and are fully engaged in shaping, developing, implementing and evaluating services and systems.

Evidence shows that these partnerships often make the best use of people’s time and money, whilst also improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

Watch this coproduction video, where forums, local authorities, health providers and commissioners share their experiences of working in coproduction and how it helped them improve services.

How to get involved

To start with you can just follow or join our Facebook community or group.

We connect different peer support groups across the county via the Ambassador Volunteer Programme.

There are lots of different opportunities for parent carers to get involved including:

  • Social media moderating
  • Communications – online, email and social media
  • Data collection
  • Admin
  • Training and development
  • PCFD Reps in strategic work
  • Event coordinating & peer support

If you’re interested in any of these, please get in touch directly via cochairs@parentcarerforumdevon.org

Or we’d love to hear from you if you have any other great ideas for ways we could work with you!