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Launch of new iHV Member SEND Special Interest Group!

16th October 2023

We are delighted to share this Voices blog by Nikki Freeman and Kirsty Jacques, who are both Health Visitor Clinical Leads for SEND at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust and are also our iHV Expert Advisers for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Nikki and Kirsty share their backgrounds and passion for SEND, which has led to the launch of a new SEND Special Interest Group for iHV Members.

About us

Since September 2022, we have been the expert advisers for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) for the iHV, something of which we are immensely proud. Our journey did not start there though. In early 2021, we came into post as Health Visitor Clinical Leads for SEND in Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust with the aim of providing equity of care across the health visiting service.

Whilst we both have different backgrounds, and have followed different paths to become health visitors, we have a shared personal experience of the impact of SEND on the whole family and working with children with additional needs outside the sphere of public health nursing.

Our role has evolved in ways we could not have imagined, and we now deliver training which we have created after improving our own skills and knowledge. We liaise with professionals from many agencies across health, social care, education, and the voluntary sector, and have created resources and pathways to support staff and families. We also coordinate the SEND champions and organise their meetings with guest speakers. Last year we organised and delivered a successful SEND early years health conference with very little comms or admin support!

We are constantly evolving and working on quality improvement projects and new pathways, all designed to ensure joined-up care for children with additional needs, whilst ensuring our staff feel supported and confident with the enhanced provision they provide.

In Hertfordshire, the health visiting service offers children an enhanced pathway for SEND support if an additional need has been identified. This may be a known diagnosis, or it could be an emerging need which requires onward referrals. We have developed a SEND pathway which gives some structure to the contacts whilst offering autonomy for the practitioner. To avoid children falling in the gaps between services at transition points, where a child has a diagnosis under the age of 5 years, they will stay under the care of the health visitor until they are 6-years-old. This is an acknowledgement that, for this cohort of children, delayed entry to education (through parental choice or a delay in a specialist provision place) or elected home education is high and therefore does not  fulfil the criteria for School Nursing care in Hertfordshire.

Why are we setting up a Special Interest Group (SIG) for Health Visiting and SEND at the iHV?

Since being in post, we have had health visitors in similar roles reach out to us for advice and support,  and similarly, we have also picked up some good initiatives from their current practice. This gave us the idea of setting up a forum for sharing best practice and networking with other health visitors in similar roles or interest. We asked the iHV for support in setting up the group as we have no experience in setting a special interest group up. We felt that having the Institute support us with this would be ideal, as the iHV is always encouraging best practice and would be able to give us the platform to drive real change in the world of SEND at a national level.

What does being part of the SIG involve?  

We believe that SEND is everyone’s business. The aim of a special interest group is to build a national network of health visitors in a SEND role, or health visitors with a strong interest in SEND, to improve health visiting services for families. The group will provide a forum to share best practice, pathways, policies, new ideas, even creating a national initiative. Through working together as a group, the SIG could really make change happen. These shared ideas would benefit children with SEND and their families in reducing inequalities and improving outcomes.

Our aim is to promote innovation in SEND health visiting nationally, ensuring a caring and agile approach to the delivery of care and support to children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and their families. As with many areas, capacity is a challenge, with reduced staff numbers alongside increased need. Despite this, we believe that change is possible. We need to think smarter to achieve an enhanced pathway of care. We passionately believe in working smarter not harder!

Launch of new iHV Member SEND Special Interest Group!

Do join us for our inaugural SEND SIG on Tuesday 28 November 2-4pm via Zoom. This event is open to iHV members – if you would like to take part and are not a member, then please do join us as a member.

Date: Tuesday 28 November
Time: 2-4pm

If you would like more information please contact: [email protected]

iHV SEND SIG dates for your 2024 diary:

  • Thursday 14 March (after our SEND conference)
  • Tuesday 2 July, 2-4pm
  • Tuesday 5 November, 2-4pm

Nikki Freeman and Kirsty Jacques, Health Visitor Clinical Leads for SEND at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust


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