Hampshire student Sam Morton was faced with having to abandon his university studies when statutory services offered his family a fraction of the funding needed for a new wheelchair.
Determined Sam, aged 19, had dreamed of fulfilling his academic potential and – with the support of a hi-tech wheelchair – had made the move away from the family home in Wiltshire to study English Language and Scriptwriting at the University of Winchester. But with the functional life of his existing equipment coming to an end, only a £10,819 replacement would allow him to carry on.
Sam, who has Cerebral Palsy in all four limbs, says: “I honestly don’t think it would have been feasible to go off to university without a powered wheelchair – and I can’t begin to describe how amazing the experience has been. It was definitely the best decision I ever made.”
Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children has supported Sam with wheelchair provision since 2007, so when he needed his third hi-tech piece of equipment – and his family was left to find £6,555 – it stepped in to help once again. The alternative statutory offer was a wheelchair that wouldn’t have enough functions to meet the demands of independent living.
Sam said: “Wheelchair services offer you something that isn’t fit for your needs – the equipment originally offered wouldn’t enable me to be at university and live independently – and then when you say ‘no’ you are made to feel a burden and that you are ungrateful. Which is why Newlife has made such a big difference.”
He added: “Thanks to this latest equipment I can finally cook for myself in the kitchen, which is something I would never have imagined myself doing – ever. I can get to things on the higher shelves in shops, access bookshelves in the university library and get around the campus and town without worrying about breaking down or having to rely on other people.”
The charity was able to help on this occasion thanks to the support of fashion retailer River Island and its ‘fantastic plastic’ initiative – contributing the profit from the sale of every carrier bag at every one of its UK stores to the charity, specifically for equipment provision. This initiative has resulted in £500,000 for Newlife.
Sam said: “There is a baseline need for compassion and care that charities like Newlife fulfil. They help give every child the right to a future and the right to live a happy life.”
He added: “We are living in an incredibly pivotal time right now where disability and disability rights are concerned. To other young people like myself I would say surround yourselves with the right people to help you get the support and equipment you need.”
Sam is now helping Newlife raise awareness of how the charity can potentially help other young people to follow their dreams. Go to https://newlife.zone/app (on your i-Pad) to see what he has to say.
Newlife Head of Operations Stephen Morgan said: “Sam is a very inspirational young man and it has been a pleasure to have been able to support him in taking the first steps towards realising his ambitions. It is a huge undertaking for any young person to leave home and go off to university, but Sam has had to overcome so many more obstacles than most. We are confident his positive attitude will inspire more young people with a disability to follow their dreams.”
Sam’s first hi-tech wheelchair gave him a taste of youthful independence, number two gave him the confidence to apply to the University of Winchester. Now, number three will support him through the remaining two years of his course . . . and beyond.
He said: “The latest wheelchair has changed everything. In fact, this summer I’m going to do something I thought I would never be able to do . . . go and enjoy a couple of music festivals.”
He added: “The equipment will ensure my continued independence. Film is my big passion and I would love to go into film scriptwriting as a career.”
Stephen Morgan added: “The UK has more disabled children than ever before and families have to ‘battle and beg’ local services for help – yet they still face heart-breaking refusals. Newlife helps save lives and change lives – but we can’t do this alone. Public support is vital.”
To find out how you can help disabled and terminally ill children in your local area, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/local and click on your county.
Pictured: Sam Morton