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A grant from the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust will help support disabled for the rest of the year

Incredible Kids, a Bristol-based charity that runs supported play sessions for disabled children and their families, has received a £10,000 grant from the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust. Secured via the UK Youth Fund Covid Resilience stream, the grant will ensure services can continue for the rest of 2021.

In 2012, a group of families in North Bristol lost access to a much loved and valuable support service. Overnight, they decided to create their own, and Incredible Kids was born. Coordinated by volunteer Jennie Prewett, who is also the parent of five children – three with additional needs – for the last nine years, the charity has gone from strength to strength.

“We have around 650 regular users of our supported play sessions as The Vench, in Locklease,” explains Jennie. “We run four 90-minute sessions on a Saturday, plus sessions during the week including a specialist girls’ session and a teen hangout. The children can enjoy crafts, play in the adventure playground or use the sports court supported by our specially trained play workers – all while parents relax and connect over a cup of tea.”

Children can enjoy craft activities along sports and games

The service, which is aimed at children who are disabled and/or neurodiverse, aims to close the loneliness gap felt by many families with disabled children.

“Around 85% of families with disabled children report feeling isolation, with many mental health problems result from access issues,” explains Jennie. “Accessing an activity or an event isn’t just about having a wheelchair ramp in place, or someone with autism support training. It is about the children feeling a genuine sense of belonging and often it is hard for mainstream organisations to get the balance right.”

At Incredible Kids, the community are able to voice their suggestions, concerns and needs, to make sure sessions are tailored to the children who use them. Research from the organisation shows that 83% of parents and carers have made friends at Incredible Kids, and 76% of children with additional needs have developed meaningful relationships at the sessions. Experienced volunteers also support parents with things like Disability Living Allowance applications or knowing what their rights are when it comes to education.

“The Covid period was very difficult for us,” explains Jennie. “The space we were using had to shut during lockdown, and we began running remote sessions over zoom to keep up those connections, sending out at-home play packs. When we were able to safely, we sent play workers to people’s houses. But it wasn’t the same, the sense of community was lost and many of our families kept asking, when can we meet up again?”

In August 2020, Incredible Kids was able to start running its essential service again, but it had to change the location to The Vench to be Covid compliant, and run more smaller sessions. 

Incredible Kids provides a sense of connection for families

“The Vench is great for us, it was a positive change, but it came at an increased cost,” explains Jennie. “As well as being a more expensive venue, we have to operate for longer hours because we run smaller groups, which increased our staffing costs too. The pressure on us financially has been huge.”

The grant from the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust is the single largest grant secured by the charity in 2021, matched only by the Sarah Jayne trust, and will pay the leasing costs of The Vench for the next four months. But it is not the only grant they have received this year.

“We have had so much support from so many organisations, such as Quartet Community Foundation, Society of Merchant Venturers and the John James Bristol Foundation. Although those are smaller amounts, they are just as essential to us and we are so grateful. We also receive ongoing support from Children in Need.”

Jennie says the positive impact of Incredible Kids on the lives of families and children cannot be underestimated.

“Some people have been unable to leave the house for anything more than essential reasons before they come to us. Many children are home educated or feel isolated in schools struggling to meet their needs. The sense of connection between our families is incredible. The community is strong. We celebrate 10 years next year and for many of our service users, the last decade has been truly transformational.”