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Your spotlight on local services

'Facilitating focus groups is tricky but we're now experts!' Islington parents help improve services


  • Healthwatch provides training to local residents who gather views about health and care

Last year Islington Council approached us with an invitation to work with a group of local parents. These women all had children with special educational needs who received support from a wide range of services. We helped them to develop the skills to go out and gather views from other parents and carers in a similar position. Dawn, Debra, Luquisha, Riffat, Pauline and Sarah became the first cohort of 'Islington Parent Consultants'.

They learned communication, survey design, and interviewing skills, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of issues around confidentiality, boundaries and safeguarding.

'I really enjoyed the training and have developed skills that i was unsure of before.' Islington Parent Consultants at a Healthwatch session

The parent consultants have made a really positive impact over the past year:

  • facilitating focus groups
  • supporting the participation of parents with English as a second language.
  • contributing to formal reviews of Autism, Bladder and Bowel, and Special Educational Needs (SEN) services.
  • Two SEN parent support groups run by parents have been set up in mainstream schools

Also, because other parents feel that they can tell them what they really think, the quality of information coming out of consultation activity has been better. Islington Council has gained a deeper understanding of the issues, needs and challenges faced by parents of children with special educational needs. The council has already commissioned us to provide similar training to two more groups of parents. The first was run in the Spring and the second starts in October.

Sarah Lee, Learning and Development Manager at Healthwatch Islington said,

'We're really pleased that this training model is proving so successful. We're building on parent's existing skills and experience. When they share their own experiences of services, they're better briefed and more confident in asserting their point of view. This helps drive service improvement.'

#ItStartsWithYou - improving services in Islington