Volunteers graduate as parent supporters for Tower Hamlets’ special needs education

The latest batch of trained volunteers have graduated to help families in London’s East End needing help with special needs education.

Twelve more volunteers are now available after graduating as independent supporters for Tower Hamlets Council’s parent advice centre.

They have completed a three-month training programme at the Whitechapel centre in Greatorex Street and are now working to help parents faced with the prospect of being told their child had special educational needs.

Their task is to support families to navigate their way through the services available, to know what help is on tap from the education authority and what special provision the school could make.

Mo Hayder was one of the 12 volunteers who graduated.

“I want to help families get a fairer educational provision,” he said.

“This makes a difference in the community, because parents are empowered which has a positive impact in all areas of personal and community life.”

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The support service needed more volunteers after its recent expansion to include young people’s special needs up to the age of 25.

New legislation means local authorities like Tower Hamlets have had to extend their services to include older people for specialist help.

Its training programme started in 2011 has now accredited 50 volunteers as independent parent supporters who help individual families for a minimum of six months, although some stay longer.

Many themselves have children or relatives with special needs and have experience of what is available and how to navigate through the process of asking for support.

They act as advocates for parents by accompanying them to meetings and help liaise between different services and agencies.

Some volunteers have even gone on to jobs as learning support helpers in schools or in charities.