Friends & Families of Special Children

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Friends & Families of Special Children's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Friends & Families of Special Children is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

www.friendsandfamilies.org.uk

1FRIENDS & FAMILIES OF SPECIAL CHILDREN |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Autumn sensory play
Surfs up for Youth
Adventures
Friends & Families of Special Children is a charity based in
Plymouth, Devon, that offers a broad range of services and
projects for children with disabilities and additional needs
and their families. They currently work with 750 families living
and working within a 20-mile radius of Plymouth and have
begun providing a vital set of services. Chair of Trustees Kay
O’Shaughnessy founded the organisation in 2003, after noting
the absence of suitable services while raising her daughter, who
was born with profound disabilities. Kay tells
The Parliamentary
Review
what makes their service so valuable for families in
Plymouth.
Friends & Families offers services to any family with a child that has any type of
disability or additional need, diagnosed or undiagnosed. We have an office in
Plymouth city centre that acts as drop-in centre Monday to Friday. The office has
a built-in multisensory room, which is used to stimulate and relax children with
severe physical and sensory disabilities. This sort of equipment is often expensive
and difficult for parents to install at home and it is supplemented by a toy and
equipment loan system, so parents can use some of our specialist items away from
our centre.
We also offer training sessions, information and advice, advocacy, befriending
and benefit and grant advice which all aim to help support the parents and help
improve the quality of life for their child. Sessions are arranged at least once a
week, so parents can talk to other people in their situation, share stories and
FACTS ABOUT
FRIENDS & FAMILIES OF SPECIAL
CHILDREN
»Chair of trustees:
KayO’Shaughnessy
»Founded in 2003
»Based in Plymouth, Devon
»No. of employees: 7
»Services: Charity that offers
a broad range of services for
children with a diverse range
of disabilities and their families
»Founded as local community
group in 2003 before
becoming a registered charity
in 2006
Friends & Families of
Special Children
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| FRIENDS & FAMILIES OF SPECIAL CHILDREN
support each other. Many children we
deal with have profound disabilities so
engaging with their senses is crucial.
We are 100 per cent self-funded and
receive no grants or monies from
statutory agencies or government.
Our journey
I founded Friends & Families in 2003,
with the intention of improving the
services available and quality of life
issues to the parents and families of
disabled children. When I was raising
my child, there wasn’t any support
from community-based charities and I
wanted to ensure this wasn’t the case
for future families. In the beginning,
I organised coffee meet-ups where
parents shared experiences and
brought their children along to play.
The meetings became popular and
soon we had formed a relationship
with a local specialschool where I was
a parent governor.
With the help of the school, we
organised integrated family activity
sessions and established a parent
steering group that was intended to
ensure our work was service user-led.
In 2006, we filed to formally become
a charity and within two years we
moved into an office in Plymouth.
We began receiving funding from
Children in Need and the National
Lottery, which allowed us to expand
our range of services and invest in
the equipment available in our office.
Reaching Communities Lottery Fund
have also provided us with grants since
2013 and we have become the main
chosen charity for fundraising by two
Plymouth-based legal companies.
The most recent step in our journey
was taken by hiring a full-time
fundraiser in 2017. Prior to them
coming on board, we had co-
operated throughout the team to
secure funding opportunities, but the
fundraiser’s work has been hugely
beneficial, successfully raising our
profile in our local area. We hope to
see a continuation of this progress,
with expansion beyond Plymouth our
nextgoal.
Unique services
We provide two unique projects for
young carers and adolescent people
Sensory story time, fun
and laughter
Unconditional love and
encouragement
We are 100
per cent self-
funded and
receive no
grants or
monies from
statutory
agencies or
government
3FRIENDS & FAMILIES OF SPECIAL CHILDREN |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
with disabilities respectively. Firstly,
The Fun and Freedom Club was
established to give young carers an
opportunity to socialise and make
friends, while providing them with
a break from caring for a family
member. For the sibling of a disabled
child, their needs will often come
second, so we want to respond
by supporting them and arranging
events, so they can meet others who
understand their experiences. To
ensure they are not missing out on
some of the typical formative activities,
we have taken members to such
places as restaurants, theme parks, the
cinema, beach activities and weekends
away to working farms. We have
recently also begun linking with the
child’s school in an attempt to foster
an understanding of their unique
situation so that accommodations can
be made. This way, the child’s learning
will not be compromised. The club
offers them control and the chance
to direct the activities through our
Young Carers Ambassador Scheme.
In response, we have been to activity
centres that involved indoor and
outdoor activities and also provided
an opportunity for them to share
their experiences and feelings, build
on their confidence and self-esteem
and be able to be children rather than
young carers.
Secondly, we started the Youth
Adventures project, which aims to
help adolescents with disabilities to
engage in activities that may otherwise
be out of reach. Many families won’t
have the support to take a young
person with severe disabilities on a
boat trip or abseiling; however, with
our support they can experience
things they and their parents may have
thought were beyond them. Because
the activities are completed in a safe
and secure environment, the young
people feel less self-conscious and are
able to challenge themselves by doing
things their abled bodied peers take
for granted, take risks and have fun.
We don’t think this would be possible
withoutoursupport.
Future aims
Going forward, we are aware that
funding and grants are becoming
more competitive, so we are taking
the necessary steps to increase our
sustainability. Our head of fundraising
will play a vital role in this process and
we do not want to rely on charitable
grants any longer. We will require new
sources of funding and an innovative
approach to continue to move the
business forward.
Recently, we have begun offering
additional information and advice
service for families applying for
additional benefits and grants and we
have received on average five referrals
a week as a result. Despite this success,
we don’t want to expand our range of
services, but instead hope to continue
to master our current offerings and be
viewed as a centre of excellence.
There is substantial demand for
our services, so expansion beyond
Plymouth is our primary goal. We have
plenty of examples of best practice
to share with other charities, families
and organisations, and this requires
expansion beyond Plymouth. We
have shown within our area that we
can help to shape things locally and
nationally, to ensure that the lives of
families and children with disabilities
are made better and families feel they
have control and choices within their
lives.
Despite this
success, we
don’t want to
expand our
range of
services, but
instead hope
to continue to
master our
current
offerings and
be viewed as a
centre of
excellence
All aboard for Fun and
Freedom water sport
activities

www.friendsandfamilies.org.uk

This article was sponsored by Friends & Families of Special Children. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy