You might have never heard of the Milton Keynes SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Information Day, writes Mimi Launder.
But for over 200 parent carers, children and young people in MK who have got tickets, this annual date is priceless – and free to attend thanks to council funding, plus volunteers and staff sacrificing their weekend.
This year’s event takes place this Saturday (February 4) at The Ridgeway Centre in Wolverton from 10am to 3.30pm.
Jane Cliff, who manages the MK SEND Information, advice and support service, which is part of MK Council, explained why the event is so important.
She said: “The day gives families a chance to come together and find support from others who understand their situation.
“It gives people who have barely any time a chance to learn more about the services on offer to them and how their lives can be improved.
“Days like this are a really good example of collaborative work, from voluntary services to families to the council.”
An incredible range of organisations will be represented on the day, from the MK Dons Sports and Education Trust to Barnado’s.
Inspiring keynote speakers are on the list too, including MK’s own Alex Holmes who turned his negative experience of being bullied into a positive by heading up the Anti-Bullying Campaign.
Popular workshops let adults attempt to figure out their child’s behaviour, whilst that same child can happily kick around a football with MK Dons.
Jane said: “It is an opportunity for people to reach families, so we’ve opened it up to young people and children. We have a strong bond with parents and want that to continue.
“Last year had a good family feel about it, with lots of children around. Often it’s tricky to find childcare, so it makes perfect sense to be family-friendly.” Times are tough due to funding cuts, but Jane remains hopeful.
“The cuts have actually made the local council work in a smarter way. We’re working incredibly hard, having to do more with less funds. We are all aware of the challenge and it has led to us working creatively. The most important thing is we work together.”
Jane stressed that the work of her team and the Parents and Carers Alliance MK – a forum for parents and carers which also helped organise the event – would not be as successful without the backing of MK locals.
She said: “We very much rely on the goodwill of Milton Keynes.”
Registration is from 9.15am and the event opens at 10am.