Little Orla Barratt from Hessay near York will be starting playschool in September, beginning to learn the crucial foundation skills she will need through education and beyond. However, as she has the condition periventricular leukomalacia which means she can’t yet walk and slumps to her left, this wouldn’t be possible without the right kind of special seat to give her the extra support she needs.
Zoe and Mark Barratt realised Orla wasn’t developing as she should be shortly after her birth. Within three months doctors had diagnosed her condition, along with Epilepsy and development delay. Although they are concerned for her future, they believe a special supportive seat will give her the best chance at school to develop and put her almost on a level playing field with her peers’.
Zoe said: “Orla has one of these seats at home, so we know it helps her, but as it is too bulky for me to transport backwards and forwards, she needs one which can stay at playschool. It has a mobile, swivel base, but it lifts off so it can be used at any height and will easily slot under a table. In a standard seat Orla would just slide off, but this seat supports her so she can concentrate properly – without battling her own body to stay upright and comfortable.”
With no provision available locally, Orla’s family were advised by Orla’s Occupational Therapist to contact Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children for help. Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.
The specialist seating for Orla was made available through the charity’s innovative equipment recycling service, Newlifeable, which was launched in response to estimates that there is £90million of disability equipment currently sitting, unused, in individual local authority stores.
Newlife takes redundant equipment, otherwise destined for landfill, and refurbishes it to meet national standards before offering it – on a first come, first served basis – through www.newlifeable.co.uk. Equipment includes specialist beds, wheelchairs and buggies, walking and standing frames, seating and bathroom aids.
Now Orla will be following in the footsteps of eight-year-old sister, Erin, who attends the primary school on the same site as the playschool – with four-year-old Cerys starting Reception class in September too.
Zoe added: “Having the right equipment at the right time is critical, but often difficult. This seat will give Orla the best start and grow with her until she is around eight years old. It means she can develop the motor skills she will need for everyday life as well as the educational skills she will need.”
Newlife Head of Operations Stephen Morgan said: “The number of children in need around the UK is rising but the budgets set for provision through statutory services are declining at local levels. So new and innovative ways must be found to make provision and it is simply a waste of resources for organisations to hold equipment they don’t need. Newlifeable demonstrates the importance of getting this equipment back into circulation nationally.”
Newlife offers several free equipment services including Equipment Grants to fund permanent provision of a wide range of aids ranging from wheelchairs and walking frames for mobility to specialist beds and car seats for safety; Emergency Equipment Loans provide a quick response for children with unstable life-threatening or life-limiting illness and to help those who face injury due to the absence of appropriate equipment; Play Therapy Pod loans of sensory toys aid the development of those with complex needs; Comfort Capsules help families of terminally ill children make memories. For details of all services go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk or call the Newlife Nurse Helpline on 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).
Newlife has helped 265 children in North Yorkshire, with equipment totalling £222,834. However, the charity is currently working with a further 12 families, with equipment needs of £20,337. If you would like to help a child in the county, go to:www.newlifecharity.co.uk/northyorkshire for more details. Alternatively, call our County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Orla Barratt