To celebrate National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, we sat down virtually with Cerebral Palsy Cymru, a charity that makes a huge difference to people living with cerebral palsy and their families.
Cerebral Palsy Cymru is a national centre of excellence for families in Wales. Their specialist team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists work together to offer transdisciplinary skills, so each child, benefits from their combined expertise. The charities family support service offers a listening ear, advice and support. They share knowledge and skills through collaborative working, courses, national and international conferences.
A chat with Claire
Claire Walker, Corporate Relationship Manager from
Cerebral Palsy Cymru, kindly took time out of her schedule to share some of the crucial work the charity does, and explain how they’re navigating these challenging times.
Can you start by telling us what your mission as a charity is?
Our mission is to improve the quality of life of all children in Wales living with cerebral palsy.
What’s your role in the charity, how long have you worked with them? What drives you?
As part of my role, I have the great pleasure of looking after our corporate partners who offer support in multiple ways. I’ve been part of the fundraising team for 12 years now. I think what attracted me to work for the charity was the impact they have on children’s lives, as well as the sense of family and community within its very fabric. We were founded 29 years ago by families, for families.
COVID-19 has impacted the charity sector in so many ways – how have you found the last year, what’s been your biggest challenge?
The pandemic has presented so many challenges for us as a charity. It’s hard to know where to begin. The biggest challenge for us has been the shattering and immediate effect the crisis has had on our income stream. 80% of our funding comes from fundraising activities, so the challenges we faced at first seemed insurmountable. Just the closure of our charity shops meant a loss of £47,000 a month.
Another immediate challenge for us was to look at how we could deliver our services virtually. Overnight, our team of therapists changed our model of service so that it could be delivered to our families living rooms using Zoom.
Children with cerebral palsy are vulnerable in normal circumstances, and so during lockdown their needs were greater than ever. Despite these enormous challenges, we’ve survived.
Thanks to sources of emergency funding, fundraising activities delivered virtually and the money we’ve been able to save through the government furlough scheme, we’ve been able to secure a better future for the charity.
What do you plan to change moving forward as a result of the lockdown and your new ways of working?
We’ve learnt that that we can still deliver our services effectively in this new virtual world. Our fundraising and operational team have worked from home for the majority of the past year. It was only from June 2020 that we were able to deliver some face-to-face therapy sessions.
It’s also forced us to look at how we offer our services and adapt them to suit how families are living both now and in the future. We’re able to reach more children and their families to provide support and advice virtually. However, where possible in the future, we do hope to still be able to offer face-to-face therapy to children that need our support.
Can you tell us about your new centre and how important this is for your charity and the people you support?
For many years our dream has been to open a purpose-built centre, allowing us to be able to support even more children and families. In November 2019 we were awarded a life-changing grant from Welsh Government, to purchase a new children’s centre. Thanks to another large gift from the Moondance Foundation, we were able to secure a building in March 2020.
Our goal was then to be able to increase our therapy provision over the coming five years by 50%. Sadly this vision may be unrealistic due to the restraints presented by the pandemic, but we’re still dedicated to reaching more and more children.
How has the pandemic impacted on the centre and when are you hoping to open it?
Despite the challenges, and the need for us to focus on securing revenue income, we continued to move forward with the development of our new centre as much as possible. The work required to make the space functional is ongoing, however the scale of the refurbishment has been significantly reduced. Sadly we’ve had to decrease our budget by almost 50%. We haven’t been able to add some of the key features we’d planned for, but adaptations have been future proofed to enable us to implement them, if we can secure further funding. In spite of all of this, we’ll be able to move into a functioning centre from the beginning of April 2021.
As we pass the anniversary of the first national lockdown, what are your hopes for the rest of the year?
Overall we’re feeling positive and remain hopeful for the future. We expect that for years to come it will be challenging to secure funding. To combat this, we’ve started getting strategies in place for different scenarios, depending on what we’ll be able to safely do in regards to our fundraising activities.
For now though, our focus will be settling into our new children’s centre – it’ll be a magical moment when we’re able to deliver the first therapy session in our new home.
How can people support your charity and all the great work you do?
We’re always looking for new supporters to get involved. We have some exciting fundraising activities coming up, including our annual baking campaign alongside our Build a Better Future appeal for our new children’s centre.
More information can be found on
our website . Alternatively feel free to drop me an email on email@example.com.
Lily and her family are one of many who have benefitted from the support Cerebral Palsy Cymru during the past year.
Lily’s family first spoke to the charity when she was just 11 weeks old. Her parents contacted them with their concerns following problems around their daughter’s birth. Lily suffered a lack of oxygen to her brain, which resulted in her spending the first three weeks of her life in intensive care. Her parents had also been told that Lily may be at risk of developmental problems, possibly affecting her movement.
Their first session was a virtual one, focused on activities to help Lily sustain her posture and focus in the midline. This reduced her tendency to push backwards. The family have taken part in monthly therapy sessions since, two of which were able to take place face-to-face. Lily has made steady progress, including physical improvements in her head and trunk control meaning she’s more comfortable in different positions and is able to eat, look at her books and play with her toys without becoming as unsettled.
Lily’s mum said: “The therapists have been absolutely amazing from day one. Ever since sending over the self-referral form to the charity, we’ve received nothing short of fantastic support and empathy.
The early intervention service has been a lifeline to us - with the support of Cerebral Palsy Cymru we feel like we’re making real positive steps forward. We have no doubt that the sessions have had a positive impact on Lily’s future.”
Find out more about the charity and their services on the
Cerebral Palsy Cymru website.
*Names changed for anonymity
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