Hampshire Now - your County Council magazine

Supporting children with disabilities

Friday, 31 May 2013

Children with disabilities and their families are set to benefit from just under £1m of funding allocated by Hampshire County Council to improve accessibility to services as well as help them in their homes and respite care.

A total of £500,000 will pay for specialist equipment needed to aid the youngsters, either in their own homes, or in their family-based short breaks placements. The remaining £325,000 will be spent on enhancements to help children and young people with disabilities access a range of leisure and recreational opportunities around the county.

The accessibility projects selected for capital funding were chosen in partnership with parents and carer representatives from Hampshire Parent / Carer Network and from Parent Voice, using the results of a survey undertaken by Parent Voice. Parent Voice is an information and participation service hosted by the Rose Road Association and funded by Hampshire County Council. The service supports families enabling them to access information about activities and support available with the aim of increasing participation of families with disabled children. The aim of the survey was to identify how access to leisure opportunities in the community for their children could be improved.

Commenting Hampshire County Council's Executive member for Children's Services, Councillor Keith Mans, said: "The County Council wants all children to be able to participate as fully as possible in recreational and leisure activities. This is why we have listened to parents and carers views on how accessibility to some of these services can be improved for children with disabilities and targeted capital funding accordingly to help leisure providers make enhancements to their facilities. In doing this we are enabling providers to meet the needs of children with disabilities and their families so that even more will be encouraged to take part in the leisure opportunities available around the county."

Parents involved in the selection of projects to be funded know how important making activities more inclusive is. Al Crabtree, from Netley whose son Dylan, 14 has cerebral palsy said: "As a parent there is nothing more sad than seeing your child as a wheelchair spectator watching while other children have fun. It breaks your heart. When leisure facilities are truly inclusive my son has the opportunity to play and take part like any other child. Accessible changing facilities at swimming pools mean the difference between us being able to go swimming as a family and enjoy it or go and be stressed by the lack of facilities - in the past I have had to try and change Dylan on a wet floor in view of other people which is undignified for him and unhygienic. More often than not we would not go at all than face that. This investment in making activities accessible makes a real difference to children and their families."

Ray Daniel from Medstead whose son Matthew, 18, has cerebral palsy and complex physical disabilities agrees with Al. A member of Hampshire Parent/Carer Network he said accessibility to services had improved considerably since Matthew was a young child: "As a result of this investment there are more places in Hampshire which are accessible compared to many other areas. Parent and carer involvement is very important as it will help us and the County Council build on this work so that children with disabilities have the same opportunities as non disabled children."

Funded projects include:

  • The creation of a redesigned inclusive play area at Royal Victoria Country Park, Eastleigh. Parents / carers and children and young people will be involved in fun consultation sessions to say what they want from their new play area. (£100,000)

  • Improved access and changing facilities including changing bench and hoist at The Rapids fun pools, Romsey (£52,200)

  • Improved accessible changing area including hoist and changing bench at Horizon Leisure Centre, Havant (£34,000)

  • Extension to accessible changing facilities and improvement to facilities including a changing bench and hoist at Hamble Sports Complex pool (£34,000)

  • Accessible play equipment at Alice Holt Forest (£20,300); part of wider improvements undertaken by the Forestry Commission including a more accessible cafe and a Changing Places toilet

  • Sensory4All - a multi-use sensory space available for families or groups to hire, based at Pavilion on the Park, Eastleigh. A later phase of building by Eastleigh Youth Trust will see other improvements including a Changing Places toilet and a café. (£16,500)

In addition to these projects there are a range of smaller enhancements which will be undertaken at the following venues: improved changing facilities including hoist and changing bench at Farnborough Leisure Centre, Farnborough, Ringwood Leisure Centre, Ringwood, West End Arts Centre, Aldershot, part of Hampshire County Council’s wider improvements to the access at the centre, a hoist at Taro Leisure Centre, Petersfield, improved changing facilities including a changing bench at Basingstoke Sports Centre, Basingstoke; and improved access via a hoist to the swimming pool at Bishops Waltham school pool.

Changing Places toilets have a height-adjustable changing bench, a hoist and plenty of space - and can make all the difference to someone with profound and multiple learning disabilities. For more information see the MENCAP website.

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