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Project supports parents of disabled children through lockdown

Parents of disabled children who have been struggling during lockdown are getting a helping hand thanks to a project funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Dorset Children’s Foundation has been providing qualified counselling support to around 40 families across the county.

The work started one week after schools closed in March, when organisers saw a huge need to provide help for parents of disabled children. Now, after receiving a Safer Dorset Fund Covid-19 grant from the Dorset OPCC, it is set to continue across the summer as families worry about whether it is safe to send vulnerable children back in September.

Founder Patsy Hallmey said: “This exploded after lockdown and we knew we had to do something – parents needed our help and we couldn’t afford to wait.”

A young girl is sat alone at a table with a laptop

The charity works with parents and carers of young people suffering a wide range of conditions, from learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorders to life changing physical conditions that have left children wheelchair bound and tube-fed.

Support, which is provided free of charge, involves everything from one-off phone calls or online chats for stressed parents to arranging blocks of counselling sessions for those in greater need.

Parents struggling with more serious psychological problems are directed towards organisations that can help.

Patsy Hallmey added: “Parents are suffering in different ways throughout the lockdown, for instance autistic children are missing the routine that school provides, while at the same time care has been removed and people who have severely disabled children are finding it difficult to cope.

“We’re able to provide the support that parents need. People cope in different ways and sometimes the people who think they’re coping need more help than they admit”

A report produced as part of the project, showing a snapshot of the problems parents of disabled children have faced during lockdown, has now been given to the Disabled Children’s Partnership which represents a range of charities and lobbies Government.

The Covid-19 grants were set up by the OPCC to enable charities to launch projects to help Dorset residents during the lockdown period.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “I’m proud to be supporting projects such as this one. Many charities are providing services which people across the county have relied on throughout the crisis, or are planning work which will be essential as we slowly ease lockdown measures and enter the post Covid world.”  

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