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Sleep has returned to the Gallagher household in Belfast, thanks to provision of a specialist bed by leading children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation to keep five-year-old Oisin safe at night.

Oisin has a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder with severe learning difficulties; he has no awareness of danger, having climbed out of windows in his Ormeau home and damaged his bedroom by ripping up carpets and floorboards if left on his own.

Mum Emily said: “We spent a year being assessed by statutory services to make sure we were doing everything we could to keep Oisin safe ourselves – but nothing that we tried worked. Finally it was decided that we needed a SafeSpace bed.”

However, with no statutory funding available for the equipment – which cost £6,150 – the Gallaghers were signposted to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children which supports an increasing number of families across Northern Ireland through its range of practical services.

Emily said: “I already knew about Newlife because the charity had provided similar equipment for a friend of mine whose son has Angleman Syndrome.”

A SafeSpace is, in effect, a room within a room which provides a comforting environment whilst keeping children safe.

Emily added: “It is great. The SafeSpace has really helped establish a bedtime routine for Oisin. Previously we would have to sit with him for a couple of hours before he would eventually go to sleep. And we were always concerned about what he would get up to if he woke during the night. Now, we put him in the SafeSpace, he runs around a bit then he quickly falls asleep. Oisin still wakes during the night but he is very happy to remain in his SafeSpace, therefore John and I can still sleep as we can hear contented noises coming from his room and we know he is safe.

“It helps us have the energy required to handle the rest of the day.”

Newlife has helped 312 families across Northern Ireland through its range of practical support services. The charity has awarded 273 Equipment Grants – like the one for the Gallaghers – and supported other families of disabled and terminally ill children through its emergency equipment loan service Just Can’t Wait. JCW aims to get vital equipment like wheelchairs, buggies, beds, specialist seating and portable hoists to the homes of life-limited children within 72 hours. In addition, Newlife offers Play Therapy Pod loans of specialist sensory and developmental toys to families of children with complex needs.

For further information go to All services can be accessed through the Newlife Nurse Helpline – freephone 0800 988 4640.

Newlife estimates it needs to raise £100,000 each year to meet current need in Northern Ireland, and with local authority budget cutbacks applications are expected to rise. Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “We are looking increasingly to ‘local heroes’ to help us help children in individual areas – and Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of all monies donated or fundraised in Northern Ireland can be ring-fenced to specifically provide equipment for disabled and terminally ill children within individual provinces.”

If you would like to donate or raise money to help fund vital specialist equipment – like wheelchairs, buggies, beds, seating, portable hoists and communication aids – for disabled children in Northern Ireland like Oisin, the Newlife Community Fundraising Team can be contacted on freephone 0800 988 4640. Any individual or organisation thinking of running a fundraising event is asked to contact the team, who can offer support and guidance. Pictured: Oisin Gallagher

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