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Reflections from SENsitive: human rights in practice

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

By Lyle Barker, Human Rights Officer

Based in Wythenshawe in Manchester, SENsitive is a group for family members who have children with special educational needs and disabilities, fighting for greater access to provisions and services, whilst supporting each other through day-to-day obstacles.

We have been working with SENsitive for about a year now, looking at what human rights based approach (HRBA) is and how it can help in their work.

We’ve had some great feedback from group members!

Overall, the group told us how their engagement with Just Fair, through the SRA, had strengthened the group’s campaign and allowed members to develop their skills as campaigners.

The group gained a new perspective on the power of lived experience. 11 of the 13 group members who gave feedback are now involved in training relating to lived experience leadership. They told us that lived experience is “something you learn and grow from”, that “lived experienced voices together bring change” and “experiences shared can provide fuel to act or untold can make you feel powerless.”

The group valued the effect they’ve been able to have. Several members told us that SENsitive has had a very positive impact on their local community, with some saying that the group “has raised the profile of SEND issues and disability rights across the area.” Others in the group highlighted that they were able to provide “input into the UK Government’s SEND review.”

This learning from the group is particularly powerful as many recognise the importance of being parents/guardians with lived experience of SEND issues that can come together as a community, demanding and creating change.

Many group members gained new skills. 11 of the 13 group members who gave feedback told us they gained new skills through working with Just Fair and SENsitive, saying they are “more confident in speaking to teachers and their local authority about their SEND child’s needs.” Others said that their engagement with SENsitive encouraged them to “apply for a job they would never get" and they were able to "provide better support for their children.”

This feedback is particularly inspiring, since not only have group members grown in their ability and confidence as activists for change, but involvement with the group has also led to their own personal development.

Overall, our work with SENstive highlights what practicing a HRBA as a grassroots organisation can achieve. Through putting ‘lived experience’ voices at the centre of their campaign, SENsitive has not only managed to be involved in the UK Government’s review of its SEND policies, but also inspired its members to develop new skills that have made them even more successful advocates for change.

We will continue to work with SENsitive, supporting them to drive social change from a rights-based perspective on the issues that matter to them.

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