Blog from Rachel Medhurst, Bexley Voice for Special Needs Children

Bexley Voice Wiki shows its power of communication at a DfE event

Bexley Voice For Special Needs Children (BV) is small charity, comprising volunteer parents and carers, which supports families of children and young people with special needs and disabilities age 0-25. We offer a programme of visits to all the schools in Bexley as well as meeting with professionals and our Local Authority. We generally have two volunteers attend.

At BV, we have been piloting the use of a Rix Wiki for our own forum, to help us with the visits and presentations, and have been delighted with the results. As parent volunteers, we often have ’emergencies’ where one person is unable to attend. By using a Wiki, we can be confident that we are presenting the correct and full information, without the need for a second person to be present.

With invaluable support from Sam Goncalves, one of our parents, the BV Wiki has enabled our team of volunteers to offer more detailed information to our parents and carers at the touch of a button.  There is so much information that we need to give out and it’s not always possible to retain it all.  This way, the volunteers know that they can visit schools and go to meetings, and present all the information accurately, for example, on the SEND Reforms, EHC Plans, all about Bexley Voice membership, support organisations and benefits advice. We can spend less time training the volunteers to present to schools, as the relevant information is already there to show to the parents or professionals. We also find that it’s more engaging for parents to watch the different short videos, rather than us talking for two hours!

Recently, our forum Wiki helped us with a real challenge.  As BV is a member of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF), we were asked to create a new private Facebook Group to enable the 32 London NNPCF forums to share information. As part of this project, we were invited by Contact A Family to showcase a presentation at the Department of Education to all of the London forums and professionals from the DofE, all about the new Facebook Group.

Both myself and Juli Atkinson (BV Parent Coordinator) were extremely nervous to say the least, at the thought of presenting to such a large audience of professionals. We were concerned about missing out vital information to ensure the network of forums understood how to use the new Facebook Group. As we are all parent/carers experiencing similar issues, we wanted to be informal and relaxed but also be professional and informative. So it was suggested that we add a new section to our forum Wiki; a great way to introduce how we at BV are involved at a regional level.

We enjoyed filming the Wiki information sections, especially being able to do re-takes so that the information was correct.  Using video clips to explain the various sections (showing me at my computer) was much more visually engaging.  And knowing the exact timing of the presentation also helped with the planning of the day’s agenda.

Once the Wiki section about the Facebook Group was set up, both Juli and I were much more relaxed.  Just knowing that if either one of us was unable to attend or got ‘stage fright’ on the day, that it was all prepared beforehand made such a massive difference to our presentation. The Wiki was very easy to use, just a few clicks and we were able to sit back and watch the audience’s positive reaction.

It was so well received, we had great feedback from many attendees and we would certainly use a Wiki for many types of presentations in the future. It is easy to use, fun to film, can be updated regularly if required and takes a lot of stress out of presenting!  We even have a video from a Local Authority professional on there now talking about our forum’s valuable contribution.

Thanks to Sam and the Wiki, which really did make such a difference!