Car journeys are no longer a painful experience for seven-year-old Olivia Sherwin, thanks to provision of a specialist safety seat.
Olivia, from Ashtead in Surrey, has a degenerative condition which affects her body and limbs. She needs specialist postural support at all times, and using a standard car seat meant she could only sit for a few minutes before she would cry out in pain.
Mum Annmarie Sherwin said: “Olivia can’t sit unaided and now she is too big for anything ‘off the shelf’. With her legs left dangling, it was putting pressure on her spine and she was really uncomfortable. I did a lot of research and looked at different specialist seats. I discovered one specialist car seat that would not only include a five-point harness to keep her in the best postural position but a footplate for her to rest her feet on, helping to reduce her discomfort.”
With no money available through local statutory services for this sort of support, Annmarie arranged for a car seat assessment with the equipment suppliers – and then discovered it would cost £1,825.
“Fortunately, a friend recommended we contact Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children,” she said.
Newlife – the largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness in the UK – has helped provide more than £1.6m of car seats (total equipment provision exceeds £13million). This is because local authorities do not have a statutory obligation to supply this equipment; instead, families can apply for a medical exemption certificate which allows their children to be transported unsecured.
However, Newlife believes that the safety of disabled children is as important as the in-vehicle security of able-bodied children and is currently campaigning for a change in the law. In the meantime, the charity continues to support families through provision.
Annmarie said: “In particular, long journeys have been a problem for Olivia but now we have this specialist car seat she is much more comfortable – it’s amazing. The equipment is designed to grow with her, so it will last a long time.
“Before we had this we would have to stack things up in the footwell of the car so she could rest her feet, but it never really worked. This car seat is already making a massive difference – and means that this summer we will be taking Olivia and her brother and sister on a family holiday in Yorkshire and Northumberland, which we are all looking forward to.”
Newlife has provided equipment for 277 children in Surrey, at a cost of more than £337,000. Right now, there are a further 11 children with disabilities or a terminal illness in the county who need specialist equipment that will really change their lives.
Earlier this year, Newlife Foundation launched the Newlife Surrey Fund – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/surrey. It is an opportunity for local people to help local disabled children and every penny donated or fundraised in Surrey is guaranteed to support vulnerable families in the county.
Special disability equipment including wheelchairs, walkers, beds, seating and communication aids can help give children independence, keep them safe, relieve pain and overcome challenges. For instance, you could help a child be discharged from hospital, take their first steps or kick a football with their friends. . . .
The Newlife Surrey Fund website – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/surrey -enables local people to find out who needs help in their county right now and includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email [email protected] – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability or terminal illness and their families.
Pictured: Olivia Sherwin