My name is Leah. I applied to volunteer for IPSEA at the end of 2019, and my volunteer training was done virtually during the first lockdown back in 2020. I’m now a volunteer on IPSEA’s Call-in Helpline where I provide legally-based information and next step advice to families of children with SEND. 

The start of my volunteer journey was an interesting time for me because I was juggling home school and training. I’d actually applied to be a volunteer because I thought I would have more free time on my hands! My two sons were moving to the upper years of primary school and I cannot work full time because I am a registered carer for them. I wanted to be able do something for me as well as give back to others. I did not actually know specifically what it was that I wanted to do, but one of IPSEA’s Facebook posts calling for volunteers to apply popped up in my feed, and here I am now. I thought it was the perfect time to apply to be a volunteer so that I could give back to an organisation who helped me (and they still do!). 

One of the most profound things that I have learnt from volunteering was actually about myself. Doing this has shown me that I am capable of managing more than I think, and it has given me more confidence to trust in my own knowledge. 

I was already aware of IPSEA and what they do. I have had first-hand experience of submitting appeals to the SEND Tribunal for my two sons. During that time I had booked a call on IPSEA’s Advice Line to access support and receive advice. I also used the website, and I still find IPSEA’s resources invaluable. I really appreciate how they manage to break information down and share it in a way that is not overwhelming or scary, but easy to understand. 

I first started volunteering on the Advice Line where parents and carers can book a slot give a little information so I could have an idea of what the call would be about. I would then call them on the date and time they had booked and they would explain more about what was going on and I would give ‘next-step’ advice. When the Call-in Helpline was launched, it took me a while to work up the courage to volunteer on it, but I now prefer that over the Advice Line. I find that this is similar to the Advice Line, because I still give next step advice. The only difference is that I’m going in blind, because I do not know what people are calling about beforehand. If any topic is a little more complex or nuanced, I will send a follow up email, and IPSEA’s legal team are always happy to give support to the volunteers. In fact, everyone who I have spoken to at IPSEA has always been very professional, kind and knowledgeable. They make you feel welcome and valued. 

As a parent-carer, I know how much of a battle it can be to secure the special educational provision for your children, and how overwhelming it can be. This is why it is so important for parents, carers and young people to know what their legal entitlements are. Our most powerful tool is our knowledge. This is why I will continue to volunteer for IPSEA as long as I am able to. I also think it helps to be able to speak to people who have gone through similar things, and I hope that I am able to not just provide advice and information to people, but comfort as well. 

Our volunteers generously donate their time for free. However, donations to IPSEA ensure our volunteers are fully trained, supervised and supported to deliver our vital advice services. This #VolunteersWeek, support IPSEA and our amazing volunteers by making a donation: