I started the charity as there was just such a lack of information and services. Getting information was like a postcode lottery.
A charity working in Ivybridge has been handed almost half a million pounds to continue its work with the families of disabled children.
Friends and Families of Special Children has received £482,407 from The Big Lottery Fund. The money is to be spent developing coping mechanisms and improve wellbeing for families and carers of children with disabilities, a spokesman for the lottery said.
The news has been greeted with delight by staff at the charity, which runs sessions at Hannahs in Ivybridge and counts many local families among the 750 it works with across Plymouth and the surrounding area.
Founder and chair of trustees Kay O’Shaughnessy explained why she thought the charity had been chosen for the huge grant. She said: “We’ve been running as an organisation since 2002, so we have a proven track record, and without blowing our own trumpet, we’ve been very successful in what we have done. We’re also fairly unique in the area, as we offer our services to all family members, not just some.
“We’re very user focused. We have steering groups for parents, young carers and disabled young people, so we’re not providing the services we think they want, we’re actually asking them what they need.”
Kay, who is herself parent to a profoundly disabled daughter, continued: “I started the charity as there was just such a lack of information and services. Getting information was like a postcode lottery.
“I attended so many sessions that were a complete waste of time, where they were just paying lip service. That’s why I’m so focused on this being needs led.”
The charity runs a number of different projects to help families deal with the challenges that come with having a disabled child, sibling or family member. It is able to offer advice and help families access benefits like the disability living allowance, and grants for equipment that can make a huge difference to quality of life.
Friends and Families of Special Children also advocates for children and families, guiding them through legal processes like appeals. Examples of projects the charity runs include the Fun and Freedom Club for young carers and Face 2 Face, a befriending service for parents that provides emotional support and advice, and helps to reduce the sense of isolation people can experience.
Kay believes this last point is a key part of the charity’s work. She said: “The money will help us to reduce isolation. Many families feel very isolated and very alone, and statutory services are just being cut and cut.
“We provide an opportunity for families to access services in a very safe, needs led environment where they are not stigmatised. Society is still not very good at accepting disability.”
Across England a total of 1,386 projects were awarded £40.2m of National Lottery funding. £3.2m of this was given to 183 projects in the South West.
James Harcourt, England grant making director at the Big Lottery Fund said: “We are proud to give National Lottery money to local projects that make a difference in their communities, like Friends and Families of Special Children.
“Whether £500 or £500,000, our funding is used to run amazing projects led by local people. When you hear about projects like these you realise the incredible impact the money generated by National Lottery players has had on communities across England. It really is life changing.”