Natasha Gratton, who has founded her own charitable trust, Helping Hands, has been nominated for an Our Heroes award.
Caring Natasha Gratton has dedicated her working life to helping disabled adults live independently.
At a time where social care budgets have been growing ever tighter, Natasha is trying to plug the gap by helping people with special needs to develop the skills they need to live full, independent lives – even if they lose the support that many rely on.
Now mother-of-two Natasha, who has founded her own charitable association, Burslem Lodge-based Helping Angels, has been nominated for a Sentinel Our Heroes award, as an adult carer.
The 28-year-old, from May Bank, said: “I have been around adults with special needs all my life and I’m really passionate about helping them.
“Since I was little, my mum, Lindsey Ellis, who is a trustee of Helping Angels, worked as a carer and she would bring adults with special needs home.
“I was at a CQC (Care Quality Commission) and I heard the social care bill for Staffordshire was £350 million, which is equivalent to the whole of the council tax. Five years ago it was £200m.
“I don’t know where that money is going to come from. So many adults with special needs are facing cuts. The social workers are brilliant and they want to help them, but they haven’t got the funding. They can’t do anymore.
“That’s why I set up the charitable association, to try to help.
“We are supporting disabled adults and children with life skills. We are trying to make people more independent so they don’t need to rely on social care so much.
“It’s things like showing them how to get public transport on their own, basic skills at home, or going for a medical appointment, teaching them what a smear test is and they might need constant reminding about appointments.
“We also tell them what to expect when going to appointments because they are terrified of going to a doctors or a dentists, no-one explains it to them.
“For the children, we are focussing on doing the same thing other children do. We have specialist autism counselling and we do things like paying for private swimming sessions and trampolining, because some of them have quite challenging behaviour and would struggle somewhere public.
“We have had an animal man come and bring some animals, because they would find a zoo a bit overwhelming.”
John Lehnert, aged 57, of Packmoor, who runs travel agents Not Just Travel, and has raised money for Helping Hands, nominated Natasha for an Our Heroes award. He said: “Natasha has worked tirelessly since September last year establishing her charity and in trying to raise awareness with limited or no funding.
“Natasha and her team look after adults and children who have difficulties in adjusting to everyday aspects of life that most of us take for granted.
“Autism is not easily detected and yet however Natasha often has to deal with adverse reactions from her clients when routines are not followed.
“She does this in a calm and assuring manner all the time.
“She excels in her role despite having a young family of her own.”