Our twenty years of experience servicing disabled children and families in the community has given us a unique understanding of the needs of this group:

  • Low self-esteem and poor mental health: Disabled people can struggle to develop a positive self-image, leading to depression and anxiety. Increased anxiety leaves them fearful of trying new things and lacking opportunities to develop confidence. We know users (and their carers) can enter a spiral of negativity, with devastating effects on mental health.
  • Lack of independence, leading to isolation: disabled children and young people have high support needs and are often more dependent on others than their peers. It is difficult or impossible for them to play outside or go and visit friends without extra support, leaving them isolated and bored/frustrated at home with no positive outlets for their energy and creativity.
  • Poor physical health/limited mobility, flexibility, fine and gross motor skills, sedentary lifestyles/poor diet/obesity: children and young people in Hackney are more likely to be overweight or obese, with significantly higher levels than regional and national averages (Report of the Hackney Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission, Jan 2013). Disabled children are also more likely to be obese or overweight: “Children who have a limiting illness are more likely to be obese or overweight, particularly if they also have a learning disability.  40% of children aged under 8 years old with a limiting illness and learning disability are obese or overweight compared to 22.4% of children who have neither condition” (Disability and obesity: the prevalence of obesity in disabled children, July 2011).
  • Cultural: Children from the Jewish communities in Hackney and beyond require settings that meet their cultural requirements. This includes gender-separate activities, kosher food and staff who speak their languages.
  • Respite/supporting families to continue to care for their disabled children at home: Informal feedback from parents shows that many considered moving their children into state care until they accessed our services because of the lack of respite or support they received. Without support, parents and carers can enter a spiral of negativity, struggling to cope with the issues their disabled child is facing while having to also provide support to other children (OJ families average 6 children, but we know many with 10 or more). This, sometimes exacerbated with the nature of some children's disabilities (e.g., lack of communication skills), can fracture familial relationships. By the time some families reach us, they need help to work together, rebuild relationships, integrate, socialise and try new things.
  • Economic: Hackney is the most deprived London borough and second most deprived borough nationally (IMD 2010); Haringey is the fourth most deprived London borough and thirteenth most deprived nationally (IMD 2010). Parents of disabled children face additional financial pressures: raising a disabled child costs over six times more per year than a non-disabled child (Contact a Family, Counting the Costs, 2012)

 

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