The project, run by An Inclusive Future, provides information, advice, guidance, and training service for families with a baby / babies or child / children with an additional need or disability in the West Lancashire area.
In addition, the project also empowers and enables Parent and Carers to navigate confidently around the many different pathways and service routes available, to ensure they could access the right services for their children within the increasingly stretched health, education and social care systems.
Our client was referred to the Next Steps Children and Family Disability Support Project/An Inclusive West Lancashire by her mother. Our client is severely visually impaired and as a result of COVID -19 has been unable to access a range of services, access her chosen university course and pursue her hobbies. (She is interested in horse riding but has been unable to access COVID safe/ disability appropriate activities lessons) This has led to a feeling of isolation, depression and low aspirations for both her and her mother.
We were able to speak to both of them and gain a better understanding of the situation and the fears and challenges they are facing. As a result we were able to put them in touch with a representative from the National Union of Students at her chosen university in order to discuss appropriate support when she begins her course. We have also been able via the West Lancashire Disability Network (An Inclusive West Lancashire) to identify and refer her to a riding school which is both safe and secure and able to meet her needs.
Due to the challenges they have experienced both have felt fatigued, adrift and generally isolated leading to a lack of confidence and despair. Via our network of providers both our client and her mother have been referred to a 6 week confidence building/aspiration building course in local area.
Both are now more confident and positive about the future and now feel as though there is a network of support they can go to and access if needed.
It is our intention that the Project becomes self-sustaining in the long term. We see this piece of work as a pilot, which will enable us to develop larger and more long-term projects in the future. It will not only enable us to deliver a much-needed piece of work that benefits Parent Carers in the community and help to enable them to better support their children and access key services more effectively, but it will also help develop the capacity and good practice of our organisation, enabling AIF CIC to apply for and secure further funding, and in turn continue to grow and develop.
In a similar way to the Next Steps Children and Family Disability Support Project it is our goal to ensure that the West Lancashire Disability Network becomes self-sustaining in the long term. We also intend that the Network becomes a functioning body in the long term tasked with a range of responsibilities possibly including collective representation of the sector (if this is what members want), collective commissioning of funding for services, quality standards and partnership development.
The project has achieved what it set out to do and, in our opinion, more. The Next Steps Children and Family Disability Support Project has helped and supported parent carers and their families across the West Lancashire area over the past year. (and more). As a result the work we have carried out has enabled us to secure further funding to extend and develop the service into a befriending and support programme called “Gateway Support” in partnership with Divine Days Community. The new service now allows us to provide a befriending element in addition to the advice, guidance and support functions. This has proved invaluable to our beneficiaries during the COVID – 19 pandemic.
In addition, the West Lancashire Disability Network (now named “An Inclusive West Lancashire”) is now an entity functioning as an information and support network to the wider disabled community in the area. It is used to circulate information, identify gaps in provision and in the near future it is hoped it will act as the cornerstone of a new disability support service called “Gateway House” which we are currently in negotiations with the National Lottery to secure funding for.