“We give them a chance of a future”
CEO of Rock Foundation and mum of four, Pam Hodge, tells us why the day centre is so important to the people of Grimsby
Parents of children with special needs often worry about what will happen to their child when they are no longer there to look after them. Where will they live? Who will offer emotional and practical support to an adult with the mentality of a child in todays’ society?
These concerns about their child’s future, the uncertainty and fear of the unknown can be the cause of much distress and many a sleepless night – something I know well. I adopted four siblings 20 years ago and my eldest son Michael (now 24) had autism and ADHD. Back then, we weren’t sure how severe his issues were but over time it became clear he would always need special care and attention. When Michael turned 18 and was in his last year at school, I began to worry about how he would spend his days after that. He’s a big lad with a mental age of 6-7 years and I’m a single mum. I had visions of trying to manage him on my own, trapped indoors day after day – a dismal prospect for us both.
I wanted Michael to mix with people his own age and have a good quality of life but when I looked in our local area of Grimsby and then country- wide, I was surprised how little there was on offer for people in our situation. A lack of funding and Government cuts was a prime factor – there were a few social activities on offer but nothing to stretch or stimulate an adult with special needs. The stress this puts on parents is incredible – they often have to pay a carer if they need to attend an appointment and working is out of the question when they are looking after their “adult child”.
So, eight years ago, I decided to set up Rock Foundation. I started the charity with two people who were in a similar situation to Michael and I – today we have 100 members. To start the fundraising, I organised a fun day locally, which was a complete wash-out! Fortunately the local radio station got wind of it and gave our cause a bit of a plug. Following this a solicitor contacted me with the news that one of his clients had given us a donation of £5,000, which was fantastic. Then, to start us off, a local businessman offered us the use of some rooms in one of his premises. After several months we moved to an old school the local council let us use for a peppercorn rent and just over two years ago we moved into our own building. It’s a huge place that allows us to offer around 25 activities including cookery, puppet making, woodwork and IT, with animal care and life skills also available for the more able individuals. All members have individual learning plans and spend time with a tutor who teaches IT, monetary skills, time keeping.
The centre is a second home for a lot of members where they meet their friends and relax in familiar surroundings. The members range in age from 18 to people in their 70s – everyone gets on together and there’s a real community feel. We have 25 paid staff who are qualified to care for those with special needs as well as 35 volunteers.
My dream is to be able to offer a residential facility for members. We have parents now in their 80s worrying about their children’s future and asking if accommodation can be made available. To this end we’re currently in the process of purchasing premises, set in ten-and-a- half acres of land, on the outskirts of Grimsby overlooking the beautiful Wolds. Over the next two years we will have ten residents with at least 30-40 using the day services and there will be a cafe and shop, plus residents can help with gardening. There will be a real community spirit.
We’re currently fundraising any way we can and have a huge fun day coming up in Caistor. We do need to raise quite a bit, but for everyday living, members will use their living allowances and any personal budgets.
As a charity, we must have a sustainable income to secure our future as grants are harder and harder to obtain. Three years ago we won The People’s Millions and were awarded a lottery fund grant of £50,000 and with this money we invested in a huge laser machine.
We use it to make plaques and we can engrave products to personalise them to sell in our local shopping centre, which has given us space to sell our wares. We also sell garden furniture, which is made at the centre. It gives the members a sense of pride to produce saleable products. We print t-shirts with slogans and baby grows with funny sayings on them that we sell online.
About six months ago, a young man came to the centre who had been turned away
from other organisations because he was considered difficult and unmanageable. As
he has Asperger syndrome and ADHD, he was given one-to-one attention and he
quickly joined in with group activities. His social workers have since told us they can’t believe how well he’s come on – he loves it here. Another young lady with Down syndrome began visiting the centre recently. When they brought her along, her parents warned us that she wouldn’t partake or speak, but a week later they told us they couldn’t believe the change in her – she had become so much more animated and chatty. She was returning home from the centre and telling them all about her day. There are many similar stories, which are incredibly inspiring and our motivation for pushing on. What we are doing here is so rewarding. I hope one day there will be many more centres like ours across the country, providing parents of children with special needs some peace of mind about their child’s future.
TOTAL RAISED: £2,246
Rock Foundation- THE FACTS
- Rock Foundation exists to be a solid ‘rock’, and a firm ‘foundation’, from which people with learning disabilities and other disadvantages can build a better life.
- Through practical workshops and supported work placements, it aims to help members develop life and employment skills, to increase their self-esteem and independence, and improve their quality of life.
- Visit rockfoundation.org.uk for more information.
BIG GIVE UPDATE
Money raised will be used to extend the current day centre to increase services offered including support and workshops to keep up with demand.