Impartial support for parents | Oxfordshire County Council

Impartial support for parents

SENDIASS provides volunteers who support parents when dealing with schools or the local authority.

If you would like an Independent Parental Supporter to assist you, or would like to volunteer contact us.

Independent parental supporters (IPS)

We aim to provide an independent parental supporter (IPS) to parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities  (SEND), whatever level of SEN support  the child or young person receives (SEN Support, with an education, health and care  plan) and whatever the special educational need.

An IPS can help by:

  • explaining letters and reports
  • helping parents to write letters or reports
  • explaining jargon or how the council works
  • negotiating on behalf of a parent
  • providing practical support before, during and after meetings
  • supporting a parent if they wish to appeal against an local authority or school decision

Who are our volunteers?

Independent parental supporters are volunteers who come from all areas of Oxfordshire and have a range of interests and expertise.

They often join the scheme because they have an interest in special educational needs, having worked in education or having been the parent of a child with special needs themselves. More details can be found in our leaflet Make a difference (pdf format, 74Kb).

Make a difference: become a volunteer Independent Parental Supporter from Oxfordshire County Council on Vimeo.


Volunteer as an independent parental supporter

Why did you become a volunteer independent parental supporter (IPS)?

I’ve got a disabled son who has had lots of problems and I’ve been given some extensive support from the SENDIASS people in the past, so I thought it was important that after I sorted my son out, that I could give something back and contribute to some of those other parents that are struggling like I was.

Well partly because as a parent of a child with special needs, having a few difficult times, I knew what it was like, but because I run a parent support group and I have seen so many parents who are struggling and I didn’t feel equipped to help.

I’ve been a professional for many years in special education and I thought it would be a good thing to do when I retired.

I had to use the service myself for trying to get my son into a special education needs school about two years ago now and they gave me the support and help and it was something that I learned a lot from, so I now am giving back to other parents.

How much time does it take up?

As much as you like, so you can spend sort of half an hour on the phone reassuring the parent and that can be the end of the case, or you can end up spending a few hours a week on a more complex case, but it is really up to you what you take on and how much time you give to it.

It takes as much as you want to give really and you are in control of that, you can say if you want to have a case or if you want to just take it easy for a while.

You can do it five days a week or you can do it one day a week or once a month, it all depends on yourself and it is all about your own lifestyle so you commit to what you can commit to.

What do you enjoy the most about being an IPS?

Everything, I enjoy it very much.

Empowering parents to feel that they get the best for their child.

I think it is being able to give back to other people and to help them and support them in the problems they have.

Making a difference to parents, seeing parents actually going to meetings and some of them coming out having a positive response towards their child and seeing them coming out happier.

I think the fact that it does make a difference when you go to a school or a meeting with a parent, you can sense that people are aware that you are there and that you are there to support a parent and the parent is more confident.

What support do you get in your role?

I get a lot of support because if I have any problems I can call the office by phone.

We get good training, we get expenses paid, we get e-mail support and where we need it there is one-to-one support as well available for those more complex cases,

There is always someone at the end of the phone or an e-mail and they are people with a wide knowledge and it gives you a lot of confidence.

We go on training courses and we have dates where we meet up and we chat amongst ourselves as volunteers.

What would you say to someone thinking of becoming an IPS?

Go and do it, it is worth it.

Go ahead and give it a go, it’s a very interesting and rewarding experience.

If you are a good listener and you’ve got some spare time, you could give it a go because you don’t need to be skilled in any area, you don’t need to have an educational background, you just need to be willing to help other people and to listen.

I’d say certainly find out about it and chat to the SENDIASS and do the training, it’s well worth it.

Give it a try, because with training you will make a real impact and you will be able to support parents, so go for it.

Just go for it, it really is an absolutely fantastic opportunity and you’ll get such rewarding and you will get such a lot out of it, so yes, definitely go for it.


Independent support

What is an independent supporter (IS)?

Independent supporters have more specific and time-limited involvement with parents and carers during the education, health and care plan and assessment and production process. They will not support parents of children who are receiving support at the school-based SEN support level.

All ISs will have undertaken a nationally agreed training programme and may be provided from one of two schemes, either from SENDIASS or from a local voluntary organisation, Adviza.

SENDIASS Oxfordshire will supervise and monitor the effectiveness of any ISs who are registered with us. We also hope to work closely with Adviza, the local voluntary organisation also providing IS, to try to ensure a consistent approach. We want parents to receive the same quality of support and advice regardless of which strand of IS support they access.

If you, or your young person, feel you need support either requesting a new EHC plan or if your child or young person’s statement is being converted to an EHC Plan, please contact SENDIASS to request an IS.

Last reviewed
18 April 2018
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