Life with small children is not always easy, as any parent can testify, but when your child has special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and your family is also struggling with challenges such as poverty or unemployment, life can become very hard indeed. It’s with these brave families in mind, that the Evelyn Trust has given funding for three years to Ormiston Families to help run support groups for families with children who have SEND. The charity is using the funds to launch parent support groups around Cambridgeshire and also to offer a unique sensory toy library.
Ormiston Families last year recruited Debbie Stockdale, Senior Practitioner, to establish the groups, with a flexible offer of support tailored to individual family needs. The project began in 2018 and there are now groups running regularly in March, Chatteris and Whittlesey. Debbie explains the longer term vision for the groups,
“Now the first groups are becoming established, my next task is to help them to become self-sustaining, so that I can slowly reduce my time with them and move on to roll out similar groups in other centres. The idea is that, over time, the groups become sustainable with very minimal help and ultimately the parents, or other volunteers, lead the groups and help them to grow and flourish.
“We will know whether we have been successful from parent feedback, but also from the longevity of the groups and the number of parents and other volunteers who get involved. So far we have received a lot of positive comments from parents and we do seem to be filling a gap in poorer, more isolated parts of the county.”
Demand for the sensory toy library is also building. Parents can look at the catalogue online and then order up to three toys, which are delivered to their local children’s centre for collection. They can borrow the toys for up to one month. These sensory toys are specially-designed to encourage the development of children with a wide range of SEND needs, from motor skills to visual impairment to autism. The toys are expensive and so may be beyond the budget of many families. The funding from the Evelyn Trust will also make it possible to boost the supply with specific types of new toys requested by families.
“We’re providing a lot of information to families, plus signposting them to the support they need. We have also run workshops to put them in touch with other charities that can help. Very often the parents have little idea of the services available to them. We help them to make those links to improve the lives of their children – and this has profound benefits for the health and wellbeing of the whole family.”
Ormiston Families is the East of England’s leading family charity, supporting children, young people and families to manage the challenges they face and improve their life chances.
You can find out more at www.ormistonfamilies.org.uk