Ever since its inception in 2012, I believe EPIC has proved a resounding success on many levels. The first young people’s advisory group of its kind helping to transform people’s attitude and tolerance towards disability both from a legal and human perspective.
The SEND reforms are ground-breaking within society and the most radical changes seen for over 30 years concerning special educational needs. Surely this legislation indicates the start of a silent but significant cultural revolution promoting greater equality and personalised services, hopefully providing the most venerable with enhanced opportunities in life creating worthwhile achievements – a goal that I feel EPIC has met and continues to surpass.
I feel EPIC’s biggest impacts have been in several areas notably that our team has managed to emphasize the letter D in the wording of the act to incorporate disabilities as well as special educational needs requirements.
It was very humbling to see our advice in print once the law was finalised.
The fact that everything was legally binding and everyone was included regardless of their circumstances meant most of all. We were also able to discuss the challenges associated with preparing for adulthood. I hope our honest feedback will make this period significantly easier for others. It has certainly helped me on a personal level when understanding my own supported living arrangements and my relationship with friends for example; I feel like we have done valuable work regarding EHC plans making the person’s personality the centre of it all tailoring every aspect around their preferences. We have supported the idea that all their character traits should be the most proportionate at the front and their care needs and logistics less obvious towards the middle and end. This is not to say any of the priorities are less crucial, but just highlighting that people are people and should not be defined by their disability. I would also add that our work on the local offer and promoting community inclusion will hopefully contribute to us making our local areas brighter places to live.
My personal highlights while being on EPIC have been my work experience at the Department for Education in Manchester, particularly meeting Gwyn; gaining official recognition for the group at the Lancaster house reception from the Minister with the certificate presentation and address by Cary Grant telling her personal story from parents point of view; the making of the NHS videos talking about our experiences; the human rights seminar; the workshop on young people’s visions for 2020; the old Trafford presentation; my work on independent supporters; particularly memorable was the allocation of funds event to different organisations.
A major highlight was meeting the Minister personally in his London office when I presented him with a report from CDC in response to the draft SEND code of practice as it then was.
The main challenges without a doubt have to be obtaining sufficient funds to continue within the current climate and gaining the same level of credibility if we branch out into a variety of other projects working with other government departments. We have enjoyed such a constructive guidance and forms framework when it comes to the Department for Education and a formulation of special educational needs standards within the children and family and other related law making processes.
I respect the work of government, but recognise the ongoing struggle for disability, equality, and young people’s participation is paramount using a platform that suits them. Be encouraging, let our confidence and voice grow – in my case being involved with lobbying and public speaking. Be prepared to think outside the box and tackle challenging issues, however diverse in nature, and we will all work together whatever your capacity to create a more inclusive society.
It has been an absolute honour to be involved in EPIC over the last 3 years, it has been an unforgettable journey which will always hold a special place in my heart. The language and legacy of inclusion is constantly reaching new heights and communicating with all the generations.”