The Kent Toys for the Disabled Scheme was launched on 1 May 2020 and is being administered on behalf of the council by disabled children’s charity We Are Beams.
Parents of qualifying disabled children aged 5-17 years who are unable to access their usual social activities during the COVID-19 lockdown can apply for the purchase of toys or equipment of their choice up to the value of £250 per child to support their needs whilst isolating.
Families needing extra support caring for their disabled children and young people are usually able to access a ‘short break’ funded by KCC which offers the children various activities such as days out and playschemes and allows parents and carers a small respite from their caring responsibilities.
COVID-19 lockdown and shielding measures have severely restricted the availability of short breaks making this an extra challenging time for many families. Some children and young people suffer frustration and anxiety when their usual activities and routines are disrupted, and their disabilities make it hard for them to understand why everything has changed.
To support their complex needs during this difficult time, KCC used the funding normally set aside for providing respite activities for disabled children to offer families a flexible way to help them through the difficult challenges of lockdown and isolation.
Picture: Bella Ratcliffe with her new bike
A shiny new pink bike with stabilisers and matching cycle helmet are helping Bella Ratcliffe, 13, cope with the challenges of lockdown.
Bella, from the Isle of Sheppey and has Downs Syndrome and severe learning disabilities. She has found the change to her routine confusing and she has struggled with the uncertainties of lockdown.
Short breaks for Bella would usually involve a visit from a Personal Assistant (PA) who would take her for trips out to the shops and other locations to teach her life skills but due to shielding restrictions Bella has not received any outside care since lockdown began.
Bella’s Dad, Garry Ratcliffe said: “…the confusion and uncertainty of trying to explain to a child with severe learning difficulties what on earth is happening is really tough. Every morning, asking if she is going to school, and not finding the right words is difficult.
“Kent County Council’s toy scheme for disabled children has been a God send. In liaison with We Are Beams and Bella’s social worker, it was decided that a new, shiny bike would be perfect for Bella.
“The ordering and pick up was simple, and now, Bella is spending a good few hours each day, whizzing up and down the garden on her new toy. For Bella, it has given her a reason to be outside, to get some exercise, to have some fun, and to forget the confusion around lockdown. As a family, we can’t thank KCC and We Are Beams enough for providing this wonderful addition to Bella’s life”.
Brothers Mark and Kristian Taylor from Folkestone both have a rare chromosome imbalance which causes Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which has left them feeling confused and anxious during lockdown.
Both boys have received funds through the scheme to help them cope with the change to their routines.
Mark, 13, has been learning to ride his new bicycle and loves his art supplies and football and Kristian, 11, has been enjoying his new basketball and hoop.
Picture: Kristian Taylor having fun with his new football and basketball hoop.
Short breaks activities for the boys were family focused day trips to places such as the zoo, cinema, and theatre which they loved and are greatly missing during lockdown.
Their Mum, Claire said: “This has been a very confusing time for the boys. Hearing news about the virus made them anxious and scared to go outside.
“Once they got their new toys however, they were playing together in the garden. Hearing their laughter and how this play has brought them together has been lovely and has created a happy household.
“I would like to thank Includes us Too, the charity who made me aware of the scheme, We Are Beams and Kent County Council for providing such a fantastic scheme.”
Picture: Mark Taylor enjoying some art therapy with his new pencils.
Sue Chandler, KCC Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services said: “We recognised the challenges faced by families with disabled children and young people during lockdown and wanted to do as much as possible to help them.
“Thanks to the wonderful work of our supporting partners We Are Beams, The Kent Toys for the Disabled Scheme has been a huge success with over 400 applications received so far and more than 80 orders placed on behalf of families.
“I am delighted that we have been able to support some of our most vulnerable children and their families through this difficult and confusing time.”
Katrina Adams, Head of Charity at We are Beams said: “We are delighted that we have been able to work with KCC to make the Kent Toys for the Disabled Scheme available. We know that so many young people will benefit from the equipment and resources the scheme can provide. It’s a great way to help them overcome the current uncertainty and confusion that they feel.”
For more information on The Kent Toy Scheme eligibility criteria and how to apply for funding visit: https://wearebeams.org.uk/kent-toy-scheme/
For information on disabled children’s charity We Are Beams visit: https://wearebeams.org.uk/
Notes to Editors:
The scheme is available to:
- Disabled children and young people aged 5 to 17, who receive a Short Break including support from a PA, attending a Short Break activity programme (SBAP), an overnight Short Break or a Community Support Service.
- Children and young people who are on SBAP waiting lists (assessed as eligible for a Short Break Activity).
- Children and young people who have accessed a SBAP within the last 6 months.
- Children and young people aged between 5 and 17 who are diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition with an allocated Social Worker from KCC Children’s Social Care Team and are struggling with the lockdown.
- Disabled Children and young people, including those with an autistic spectrum condition, aged between 5 and 17 who are currently in a Foster Placement and are struggling with the lockdown.