Our CEO’s Conference Speech

11th March 2020

If you missed our conference, we have posted here Sarah’s speech, which will give you great insight into what we do, and what we will be doing in the future.

Sarah Conboy’s Speech at the Annual Pinpoint Conference 2020

I’d like to start today by extending a warm welcome to all of you.  ​​

I am delighted to see so many parents and carers joining us… You’re in for a great day.  ​​

I’d also like to welcome our stall holders, professionals and our service commissioners. ​​

I know that some of you have been with us since our first conference eight years ago and that some of you were here last year for the first time, let’s see who you are.

{Sarah asked for a show of hands for those who had been here with us at a previous in the last two years, earlier than two years and if it was attendees’ first time. Sarah also asked the age of attendees’ children}​​

Today is my fifth year at the conference as I was here previously as a parent and, for the last two years, I’ve been up here on stage as the CEO! ​Last year I talked about the work we would be doing on your behalf.​ Over the last twelve months, we have been focused on joining up the services you need and helping you make the connections that make a difference for your family. ​We know that the biggest way we can help you is for the policies and the support offered for your children to be the best they can be and that they ‘do what they say on the tin’. ​We were delighted that so many parent carers joined us at a series of workshops to help develop a new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough SEND Strategy, a new SEND Pledge and a SEND Action Plan. ​That Strategy launched in September and in December the SEND Pledge to make that strategy a reality was also launched.

The Strategy itself has three priorities: ​

  • Send is Everybody’s Business ​
  • Early Intervention
  • And Getting the right service at the right time

The SEND Pledge is about how together (you, us, the professionals that support you) can work together to make those priorities a reality. Please do have a look at the artwork that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough children did to ensure it was a document that reminded us who it is for. ​This was a huge piece of work and should improve the lives and outcomes for all our children. ​

It helps that we have a seat on your behalf on all the senior strategic boards, ensuring that parent issues are given a clear and consist voice, helping to ensure services meet needs and aspirations. ​

​Of course, none of this matters unless it delivers.  The Local Authority have been developing a comprehensive SEND Action Plan.  It takes all the things you said matters and structures them into a work plan.  ​

We were very clear that there were three key themes for the first year: ​

  • Compliance – ensure that everyone does what they should, consistently, no excuses
  • Make SEN Support work better for our children – ensure good quality assessments happen early and that we are clear about what is being done to support our children and how we will all know if it’s working as expected… and what will happen if it doesn’t​
  • Deal with the cliff edges – there are too many times when moving between schools and services is more difficult than it should be​

And to reassure you, the LA have been listening, because those priorities are there., along with improving communication and ensuring that the Local Offer is the best it can be and that you can easily access that information on the County Council’s website. ​And I’m pleased to tell you I haven’t met a professional or parent who disagrees with these priorities. ​

Now it would be remiss of me to move on without mentioning that all of this costs money and the Council and schools are already struggling.  The harsh reality is that Cambridgeshire is one of the worse funded authorities with a central government funding formula that doesn’t reflect the actual needs of our children and young people. County Council officers have been doing all they can to raise this issue with Government, as have we.  So far there are no simple solutions.  The Authority has been required by Government to develop a plan as to how it will reduce its SEND overspend.  It has done so, but the reality is it’s an impossible task. LA senior officers are being extremely open and honest about the task they face and we’ve appreciated that.  We have to hope that Government are listening.  ​

We know that getting a full assessment of children’s needs continues to cause confusion and concern for families.

I’m really pleased with the co-produced Education Health Care Assessment Guide which:

  • explains how the assessment process works and the sorts of evidence which those who are trying to assess needs will find helpful
  • dispels the myth that a child must be at least two years behind
  • no longer talks about thresholds
  • promotes early assessment
  • recognizes that progress should be considered against the level of support needed to make that progress
  • makes it clear that the professional assessments and judgements of all involved, including professionals who are appropriately qualified private practioners, are valid and will be considered
  • discourages volumes of paperwork and the notion that children should be on Assess Plan Do and Review Programmesfor multiple cycles where there is clearly a high level of need

Importantly, alongside this, the professionals that work with schools as educational psychologists and support teachers have been prioritizing additional time for early advice in schools.  They can also provide free assessment tools for schools to use – helping to get better assessments much earlier to enable children’s needs to be met earlier. This early identification is crucial to ensure children don’t fall behind and that their needs can be met in school as part of SEN Support. ​​

We know the statutory processes can be difficult to understand and frustrating for parents when it doesn’t work as parents expected.  We are now regularly working together with the Statutory Assessment Team to look at how we can help.  In some instances, regrettably, families find themselves in a legal dispute with the Local Authority.  It would be great to avoid these, and we will continue to look what more could be done to achieve this where possible. ​

Other highlights from the past year include: ​

  • An extended piece of work with parent carers being involved in the re-tendering of short breaks​
  • Work with the Authority to address the needs of children who have social and emotional mental health issues and exploring how we can offer STEPs Behaviour sessions for you so help you support your children​
  • More work to look at how SEN Support is working on schools​
  • Developing the content of the Local Offer​
  • the contract to deliver additional workshops in the East Cambs and Fenland Opportunities Area​
  • The 8 new Pinpoint Tii Hubs we’ve been offering across Cambridgeshire where parent and carers can get together over a cuppa.​
  • The new Pinpoint Champions Programme and the volunteers that have been trained so we can reach more parent carers so we can signpost to services early​
  • Our regular ASD/ADHD workshops​
  • Our Meet the SEND AD sessions with Toni Bailey ​
  • A new PFA Pathways to Employment Event being held here in May​

I think you’ll agree, that’s a huge list for what is essentially a tiny team of trustees, staff and volunteers. ​

{Sarah then asked all staff, trustees and volunteers to wave their presence}.

Please find the team today as they like to meet you.   And in case you didn’t know, we are all parent carers of SEND children and young people too. We have a team of 8 Trustees who enable us to operate as a charity.  And we have a growing bank of volunteers, many of whom are here today.

Over the next 12 months we’d be delighted if you might do at least one of 4 things for us please​;

  1. Could you please complete the annual survey which we’ve just launched? It’s vital we know what works well and what would be better if.  We’re only as good as the things you tell us. ​ There is a copy in your bag.
  2. Could you be a Pinpoint Champion?  Could you tell others who might find Pinpoint helpful how to get in touch with us? Find Linda today and ask her all about it!​
  3. Could you help us with fundraising?  Could you do a fundraising event or be sponsored. You don’t have to climb a mountain, but you might hold a coffee morning?  Do you (or someone you know) work for a company that might be interested in helping us with sponsorship?
  4. Could you become a trustee?  It’s important our Board of Trustees reflect the wide range of parent carers and we are always looking for new people to join us.  Richard, Margaret and Fay and will be delighted to tell you more. ​

We are Pinpoint – at the heart of Cambridgeshire SEND

  • We are your voice – your parent carer forum – and we ensure your voice is heard.  Do please talk to us today and give us feedback as well as filling in your feedback form before you leave. ​
  • We are here to ensure that the services you need and want to understand what works well, what could be better and what else you’d like to see available.  Today you can find all of Cambridgeshire’s health, social care and education services represented on the stalls.  And you can talk direct to the people who commission services for you and your children in the 1:1 sessions. ​
  • We are your signposting service.  Do please look at our updated website, redesigned to help you get the right information first time. ​
  • We here to keep you up to date:  if you’ve not signed up for our newsletter please do so today before you leave.  And do follow our Facebook page. ​

And finally, we are also an information provider:  we have a number of workshops and groups running each month – all are free, and you can now sign up on our website…and automatically add it to your diary!

We are Pinpoint –  for parents by parents.

Enjoy the rest of your day.