Little Harry Durbin from Barwick in Elmet near Leeds will be enjoying school life a lot more when he returns for the new term, thanks to a specialist piece of equipment.
Six-year-old Harry, a pupil at Penny Field School in Leeds, has Epilepsy and learning difficulties. He is unable to sit, stand or walk independently and relies on a wheelchair for mobility. His posture needs 24-hour management, which has meant regular transfers each day in and out of his wheelchair just to keep him comfortable, help prevent his spine from curving and reduce the risk of pressure sores.
Dad Dave Durbin said: “Harry can’t support himself so he needs to be moved into a range of different positions with the help of specialist equipment. His wheelchair doesn’t offer enough postural support so when he is at school he used to have to be removed from the chair to lie down on a mat on the floor. This meant he couldn’t join in with his classmates and missed out on a lot of activities.”
The new equipment – an Acheeva Graduate Table – is a cross between a wheelchair, bed and therapy table, and allows Harry to be repositioned more easily. The £4,887 Acheeva has been provided through a partnership between Newlife Foundation – the UK’s largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness – and retail giant Marks and Spencer.
Dave said: “We are following the guidance of Harry’s school physiotherapy team. This equipment will allow him to enjoy his day more and access learning for longer periods of time. Obviously, Harry will also use this equipment at home during school holidays to maintain his health and level of comfort.”
He added: “Penny Field School does a fantastic job with all its students. However, recent cutbacks combined with the wide range of individual needs of the pupils means the school finds it difficult to provide equipment for everybody. So we are very grateful for this support from Newlife Foundation and Marks & Spencer.”
Sheila Brown OBE, chief executive of Newlife Foundation, added: “Our partnership with M&S benefits hundreds of children and their families. It is very encouraging to see the efforts of M&S in helping to improve the lives of disabled and terminally ill children within local communities across the UK. Equipment that costs hundreds to several thousands of pounds really can revolutionise lives. We are very grateful to everyone involved, and would encourage other groups and individuals to keep fundraising to help us make a difference.”
Newlife has helped provide more than £348,000 of equipment for 290 under-19s in West Yorkshire. However, the charity is currently working with another 23 families with equipment needs in excess of £34,000.
In response to the growing need in the county, earlier this year the charity launched its Newlife West Yorkshire Fund. The fund’s website – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/westyorkshire – enables local people to find out who needs help in their county right now and highlights the support the charity gives families. It includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families.
M&S has worked in partnership with Newlife since 2006 as part of its Plan A commitments, donating returned products and clothing samples that cannot be sold, to the charity to be resold or recycled. The majority of the donated products are sold in the Newlife SuperStore in Cannock and the charity recycles the remaining items, all to raise money for children with disabilities. In October 2010, M&S launched a grants scheme, which has specifically helped fund over 200 pieces of essential equipment, totalling £630,000 for disabled children in local communities across the UK.
Jacquie Leonard, Community Programme Manager at Marks & Spencer, said: “Our partnership with Newlife is not only great for the environment but it also helps to improve the lives of disabled children by providing much-needed specialist equipment. We are delighted to be able to support such a vital charity.”
Pictured: Harry Durbin