Fairplay’s vital help for children with disabilities

Fairplay, Heather Fawbert with Adam Salt and Luca Grippo
Fairplay, Heather Fawbert with Adam Salt and Luca Grippo

Children are lying on soft mattresses lulled by music while they watch colourful bubbles dancing in tubes.

Some are unable to express verbally how lovely it is to be cocooned in this comforting environment, others are unable to walk unaided to the wigwam which stands in the corner of the sensory room.

These are the children for whom Fairplay exists, the young people with disabilities who have a better quality of life because of the charity.

Chief executive Heather Fawbert said: “We’re a charity that provides services for children with a wide range of disabilities including autism as well as life-limiting conditions. It’s a fun place to come to learn and make new friends. Parents know that their children are a 100 per cent safe here and that they are respected and well cared for by trained staff.”

Thousands of families across north Derbyshire have been helped by Fairplay since its launch 25 years ago. Holiday playschemes, an under-fives pre-school group, youth clubs, activity days and independent living sessions are just some of the services provided. Heather said: “Our unique selling point is that everything is age-appropriate.”

Sleepovers for those with complex health care needs are available at the Fairplay centre in Chesterfield. A daytime meeting room is turned into bedrooms for two young people at night, one of the rooms housing three specialist beds costing a total of £11,000. One has holes for feeding tubes and is fully enclosed yet its transparent covering enables staff to monitor the person inside.

Heather said: “The demand for overnight care is growing and we’ve got restricted space.”

One of Fairplay’s aims for the next two years is to raise enough money to build a four-bedroom bungalow which will provide additional overnight accommodation.

Residential experiences for the more able-bodied young people who benefit from Fairplay’s services are provided at the charity’s Fairview House on the other side of town.

Fairplay works in conjunction with the health service to offer a home-based service for families who have children and young people with complex health needs and life limiting conditions. Michelle Tait, specialist practitioner children’s community nurse and nurse co-ordinator for the service, said: “ We are seeing more and more children with complex health needs who require a high level of support.

“As time has evolved, people prefer to have care outside of the home too, so once a month all of the Home Based Support children meet at the Fairplay centre with their care workers for a social experience and activities.”

£100,000 plea to business chiefs

Fairplay’s management and trustees are appealing to the business community to back valuable work in supporting young people who have disabilities.

A new initiative this year is the launch of the Fairplay100 club, which will invite businesses to help the charity raise £100,000 over the next financial year.

Chief executive Heather said: “We get no local authority funding for children at the moment so we’re appealing to business and corporate social responsibility. These children will be your neighbours or family members or go to your child’s school.

“Because all of our children are local, we want businesses to help carry us forward to the next twenty-five years.”

Businesses are also invited to sponsor a table at Fairplay’s 25th anniversary black tie ball at Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium on May 18. Outstanding achievement awards, which can also be sponsored, will be presented at the ball.

For more details, contact Fairplay by phone on 01246 203963 or email: office@fair-play.co.uk or visit www.fair-play.co.uk.

Support for all the family

“He’s a very happy boy - he doesn’t expect much out of life,” said mum Kerry Salt.

Ten-year-old Adam’s lovely smile lit up the room as Kerry and husband Karl spoke about how Fairplay has helped their son.

Adam has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, is visually impaired, has chronic lung disease and has to be fed by tube.

Kerry said: “He has had a lot of operations and spent at least half of his life in hospital,”

Adam has to have chest physio at home and saliva vacuumed out of his mouth four times an hour as he is unable to swallow.

“When Adam was a lot younger, we were exhausted,” said Kerry. “Fairplay gave us an opportunity to relax and not clock-watch thinking that he needed physio or medication.”

Adam, who has been attending Fairplay for eight years, likes spending time in the sensory room and doing arts and crafts.

“It’s such a positive experience for him,” said Kerry. “ He has made a Father’s Day card, an Easter basket and some cornflake buns.

“All the staff are always upbeat, friendly, chatty and full of energy. Adam likes being with Julie Baddley his care worker who is also the school nurse at Ashgate Croft.

“He has to be with someone who knows him because he can be quite fragile. The interaction with Julie means one hundred percent attention is on him. That gives us confidence to leave him.”

Adam’s visits to Fairplay enable Kerry and Karl to take five-year-old Isla on outings which wouldn’t be suitable for her brother, such as walks up hills or trips to the cinema.

Karl said: “When we go out with Adam we have to go to places which are accessible and have changing facilities nearby - it can be very restrictive.”

Skills for young people

Fran Wood has learned how to cook, wash and iron clothes and develop her artistic talents during her four years at Fairplay.

She said: “I get to be independent and do a lot of things like going on a day trip to Skegness.”

Epilepsy is no barrier to Fran’s creativity which is highlighted in the colourful greetings cards she makes.

Fran, 23, lives in Middlecroft, Staveley, with her dad.

James Weston enjoys the friendship which Fairplay offers.

He said: “I come here because it gets me out of the house and gets me meeting up with people who have other disabilities.”

James, 21, who has autism, enjoys doing art at Fairplay and making videos when he’s at home in Chesterfield.

History of the charity

Fairplay started life as a group of parents hitting upon an idea to entertain disabled children during the holidays.

Janice Rhodes, who chairs the charity, secured a grant of £50 from the health authority to launch the first summer playscheme.

Such was the success of the venture that it led to more playschemes and an office in a house on Sheffield Road, Chesterfield.

In 2001, Fairplay moved around the corner into the Parish Centre which was large enough to accommodate the offices and playschemes under one roof.

Six years later, the expanding service provision and increase in staff resulted in a move to bigger premises on Chatsworth Road.

A purpose-built Fairplay centre was opened on Alexandra Road West in 2010, built at a cost of £1.6m and funded by a Government grant through the MyPlace initiative of which Heather Fawbert is now the chairman.

In 2013, the charity acquired Fairview House on Sheffield Road to extend its services to young people.

Fairplay now employs 80 staff and volunteers and this year’s turnover is anticipated to be £850,000.

Money to help keep the charity afloat is raised through donations, sponsorship and events such as quiz nights and tea dances.