With thousands of UK children waiting for the correct mobility equipment, we asked charity Whizz-Kidz about the support available for children in wheelchairs
If your child or someone you know needs a wheelchair, you’ll understand how hard, and sometimes frustrating, it can be to get the correct equipment.
Unfortunately, disabled children often don’t receive equipment appropriate for their needs through the NHS, sometimes waiting years just to be given smaller, clunky versions of adult chairs.
This is where Whizz-Kidz comes in. Often working in conjunction with the NHS, the charity is on hand to help by providing young people with assessments and mobility equipment services, in order to help clear long waiting lists.
Twenty-one years ago, original founder Mike Dickson was in a bicycle shop when he spotted a little girl using a power wheelchair to reach items off a top shelf. He offered to help, but the little girl was able to raise herself up in her chair to reach the items herself. That was the moment he decided to set-up the Whizz-Kidz organisation so he could fundraise for more children to get more sufficient kit, just like the little girl was using.
Nowadays, Whizz-Kidz not only provides support for children from as young as one in finding and fitting the correct equipment, but also with life skills and campaigns to improve both the accessibility of streets and towns, and to call for reform of national wheelchair services. We chatted to Rob Dyson from Whizz-Kidz to get the lowdown on the charity and how you can be a part of their family-friendly service.
The ability to walk, whether it’s going down the road, to work, or upstairs is something most people take for granted – non-disabled people do it everyday. Everyone wants the freedom to be able to do what they want, when they want, and disabled children are no different.
“Without mobility, disabled children learn dependency and will become used to being pushed around and adults making decisions for them. As soon as they have the appropriate equipment, children can begin to experiment, wheel around and develop mentally and grow in confidence,” says Rob.
Disabled young people have the same ambitions as everyone else, so Whizz-Kidz believes it’s important to give children mobility support as early as possible.
“For really small children, we can provide them with things like a wizzybug [a fun powered vehicle for disabled children]. Toddlers can use these to begin their independence and experience the same sort of exploratory bumps that non-disabled children wandering around on their feet are experiencing,” says Rob.
“As they get older, we can provide equipment that’s right for them, and for their social needs. So if you’re big cyclists at the weekend, maybe we can provide your child with adapted trikes so he or she can join in. Why should they be left out of family time?” adds Rob.
Whizz-Kidz has a fantastic relationship with all of their families, many of whom stay close to the organisation. As well as equipment training, Whizz-Kidz helps children and young adults under the age of 24 with life skills through their regular Ambassador Clubs. At these clubs, kids can meet, learn sports, drama and music and campaign on local issues that are important to them.
“There are children aged between 12 and 18 years old who still come along to our Ambassador Clubs, and young adults up to 24 years old whom we offer work placements to. These are often people we’ve know for many years, who have grown up with us in their lives.” says Rob.
Older children at Whizz-Kidz can also provide advice and support for the younger children via a website called Kidz-Unlimited.org.uk. “This can be anything from support on wheelchair training to life skills advice on bullying, relationships, health and feelings – all the things that only an older child with a mobility impairment might be able to answer for their younger peers,” explains Rob.
Whizz-Kidz gets nearly 100% of it’s funding through voluntary donations, sponsorships and fundraising.
It costs on average nearly £6,000 to give a child the correct mobility equipment, including a therapist assessment, and around £2,500 to run a wheelchair training programme for ten kids. Every piece of equipment is customised to each individual child, so the cost can vary depending on the need.
However, the charity doesn’t means test, so your child will receive the correct mobility equipment for them, no matter how much your household income is.
To date, Whizz-Kidz has helped over 13,000 children and young people, but still has a long way to go. Their current campaign, Fast Forward, aims to collect 70,000 signatures, estimated at one for every child waiting for the right mobility equipment in the UK. To sign their e-petition head to Fast Forward – it only takes a few minutes, and your signature will take them one step towards improving these children’s quality of life.
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