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The lives of more than 630 disabled and terminally ill babies, children and young people across central England have been transformed, thanks to a five-year charity partnership.

Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children became Central England Co-operative’s staff-elected charity in 2012 and since then colleagues and customers have raised £1.5million – every penny of which is directly spent on specialist equipment to help change lives.

So far, 635 children across the Central England Co-operative trading area have received equipment including wheelchairs, walking frames, seating, portable hoists and communication aids. One of the most recent children to benefit is Matthew Smith from Barton under Needwood (see story below).

Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “It has been a fantastic partnership with a fantastic organisation. Central England Co-operative colleagues in stores across 16 counties have put so much effort into events to raise money for Newlife. That really shows, and has helped hundreds of families who might otherwise have had to struggle on without the specialist equipment they needed.”

Sheila Brown and Central England Co-operative Chief Executive Martyn Cheatle got together at the company’s Boley Park store in Lichfield, Staffordshire, yesterday (Tuesday 25 July) with Matthew and his mum Christine Smith to mark the end of the successful partnership. Martyn Cheatle added: “For us, it’s been a fantastic five years and we are so proud to have been able to raise £1.5million. However, the important part of the entire partnership has been that we have been able to give all of the money back to support people in the local communities that we serve.”


Teenager Matthew Smith from Barton under Needwood had pressure marks on his back because his specialist chair was too small for him. Local statutory services wouldn’t fund a replacement so Matthew was often confined to bed at home, for comfort. All this has now changed, thanks to a new special seat provided as a result of Central England Co-operative fundraising.

Matthew, who is now 19, has Cerebral Palsy – which affects his mobility – epilepsy, is registered blind and unable to communicate. He has undergone surgery on his spine and hips and has a specially moulded seat for his wheelchair to help prevent further deterioration of his condition.

Five years ago local statutory children’s services gave him a custom-built seat to keep him properly positioned at home. However, he has now outgrown this and, says mum Christine Smith, statutory services wouldn’t provide a replacement. Because of this, he had been spending increasing amounts of time in bed.

Christine says: “When Matthew had been sitting in his old chair, one side of his back would be red from pressure marks – so he obviously wasn’t in the right position.”

Specialist seating called a P-Pod – which has a custom-moulded seat set into a beanbag construction, with wheels, safety harness and lap belt – was needed. But this costs £2,222, so Christine turned to Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children for help. Newlife is the largest UK charity providing specialist equipment.

With the support of fabulous fundraisers at Central England Co-operative, Matthew had his new chair delivered recently.

Christine said: “Everyone needs somewhere comfortable to relax, but Matthew didn’t really have this. Now, with the P-Pod, he has a ‘chill-out chair’ so he can be more involved in family life. And because it’s on wheels, I’ll be able to take Matthew out into the garden knowing he is fully secure, comfortable and – above all – sitting in a position that won’t impact on his health.”

Newlife Head of Charity Operations Stephen Morgan said: “The UK has more disabled children than ever before and it’s an outrage that families have to ‘battle and beg’ local services for equipment – and yet they still face heart-breaking refusals. We were delighted to work with Central England Co-operative to help Matthew leave his bed and enjoy life again.”

Newlife changes young lives, but we can’t do this alone. If you would like to support a child in Staffordshire, like Matthew, go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk/staffordshire and donate. The website includes details of the Newlife Supporter Relations Team – tel no 01543 462 777 or email local@newlifecharity.co.uk – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness in the county.  

Pictured1 (L to R): Martyn Cheatle, CEO Sheila Brown OBE, Christine Smith & Matthew Smith and Karen Dobson

Pictured2: Matthew Smith

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