History of West Yorkshire CANN

Leeds Children’s Additional Needs Network (Leeds CANN) started as an ambition to improve communication between the various charities operating in the Leeds area in the field of supporting children with additional needs and their families. The first meeting in Autumn 2016 was between the four groups / individuals involved, who agreed on a simple plan to reach out to their various contacts, establish the level of interest and meet to discuss how to take the idea forward. What emerged in the next few months was that there was interest from a number of organisations in meeting and exchanging ideas and news, that a Facebook page and a website would be essential tools, and that we should make progress, initially just within the Leeds area to test the concept.

Over the next couple of years, we have established a Facebook page for the member organisations, which have grown to number around 40 and to include statutory bodies working in the city, a Facebook page for families, and a website which acts as an information resource by offering a single portal, with a paragraph about each member organisation, summarising their offering and including contact details and a ‘click through’ to their own website. Meetings are held every 3/4 months, with the Chair, who is elected from the members, issuing a request for agenda items being issued two weeks before the next meeting, an agenda being issued one week before, and the minutes being issued within two weeks of the meeting. Attendance has varied but has generally been around half of the membership turning up to any meeting, all of which have been generously hosted by members. All development work during that period has been funded by contributions from SNAPS Yorkshire CIO (Special Needs and Parent Support) and Irwin Mitchell Leeds. No other funding has been sought or required.

The membership is a combination of national charities (operating across the UK), regional charities (operating across Yorkshire and beyond) and local charities (operating solely in Leeds), as well as statutory groups, such as Leeds City Council teams and management responsible for children with additional needs and their families across the city, and NHS teams with interests in this area. Most organisations have more than one representative, to help ensure cover, and in some case these are Trustees, rather than employees of the organisations concerned.

We see the website in particular to be a key information resource for families of children with additional needs – simple to access and use, highly informative, and providing help when they most need such support. The member organisations have also found the improved communications between them to be helpful, with the opportunity to swap information, ideas and news.

At a meeting in 2018, further to the successful expansion of the Network within Leeds, it was agreed that a programme to expand the reach of the Network to include all five authorities comprising West Yorkshire, would be implemented. To this end, a request was issued to all members to establish the operational cover of each organisation, i.e. whether they had a presence in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield as well as Leeds. The distribution has now been confirmed, and the next step is to identify the local organisations from the relevant local contacts in each authority, which are smaller and less visible outside of their own specific area. We have negotiated some funding to pay for developments to the website over the next three years, with the ‘infilling’ of the smaller organisations taking place during the coming months as an ongoing process, enabling the full West Yorkshire CANN to be properly launched in 2019. As a separate initiative, with the support of Irwin Mitchell, South Yorkshire CANN was launched in late 2017, based in Sheffield.

Purpose of West Yorkshire CANN

West Yorkshire CANN is formed of third sector, voluntary community and statutory organisations working with families and carers with children and young people with additional needs, in West Yorkshire.

It has been established so that Member Organisations can share best practice, resources, ideas and opportunities, in order to improve access to information, training and support for families and carers across the West Yorkshire area and the region, and to help to create a more efficient and effective ‘market place’ to the benefit of all users of our services, and the organisations involved.

What West Yorkshire CANN Will Do

The West Yorkshire Children’s Additional Needs Network will:

  1. Create a closed Facebook page solely for access by Member Organisations, which will create a platform for sharing of information, ideas and opportunities for joint working
  2. Create a West Yorkshire CANN website which will act as a single entry point to access a wide range of information and ideas relevant to families of children with additional needs, and through that entry, access the websites of all Member Organisations
  3. Share ideas showing best practice between Member Organisations
  4. Share opportunities for single and joint events and activities, including information and training sessions
  5. Share information to advertise and cross promote services to respective organisations and the families they support;
  6. Work with Health, Social Care & Education professionals to improve their understanding of the needs of families with children with additional need. Where appropriate, provide guidance and information to pass on to their clients/patients;
  7. Review local needs regularly in line with national legislation and local initiatives and policy;