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South West Law Firm Gets The Charity ‘Bug’ By Helping Disabled Youngsters Become Mobile

Irwin Michell Joins Forces With Charity


The South West office of Irwin Mitchell solicitors has joined forces with a leading Bath mobility charity to help get disabled youngsters on the move.

The leading firm of lawyers has pledged funds and will work in partnership with the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) who have developed a unique motorised buggy for children with severe mobility problems.

The innovative Wizzybug, which is the brainchild of the BIME engineering team, has been designed specifically for children aged between 18 months and five years old.  The bright red, fun buggies, which sport a smiley face & eyes as well as a colour coded control panel, are already a huge hit amongst users. However as each Wizzybug costs around £3,000 to build, the charity relies heavily upon donations to help families in need.

Now BIME has set up a new loan scheme in a bid to make Wizzybugs accessible to even more local families and Irwin Mitchell’s donation will fund the initial cost of a new buggy as well as its maintenance for the next five years.

Julie Lewis, a partner and medical lawyer with the Bristol office of Irwin Mitchell explained: “Much of the work my team is involved with brings us into regular contact with children who have cerebral palsy and other severe mobility problems so we know first hand how important it is to help children gain independent movement at an early age.

“For a child who cannot walk, it makes such a huge difference to have an electric buggy which has been designed especially for their needs. We are delighted to be working with BIME because we know their Wizzybugs help change youngsters’ lives for the better.”

Alison Douthwaite, an Irwin Mitchell client, from Frome in Somerset is one of a number of parents who are delighted the scheme is expanding. Alison’s seven year old daughter, Ettie, is one of a number of local youngsters who have already benefited from a Wizzybug during her early years.

Mrs Douthwaite commented: “When we found out that Ettie had severe cerebral palsy and would be unable to move independently it was an overwhelming and confusing time. We wanted Ettie to explore the world, like other children but she always had to rely on other people to move her around to touch or see things.”

“We were put in touch with Wizzybug through the Pre-school Assessment and Therapy Centre at the Royal United Hospital Bath and Ettie was offered a place on a trial scheme for the Wizzybug. The difference it made to Ettie’s life was incredible. To see her learn to move herself independently was amazing. She spontaneously drove over to plants and hedges so she could touch and feel them. Sometimes she would try to drive to the area in the hospital where the toys were stored. Importantly, having a Wizzybug at an early stage stopped her developing into a passive child and it was much easier for her to make the transition to a ‘grown up’ electric chair.”

Ettie’s cerebral palsy was caused as a result of being starved of oxygen at birth due to errors at Frome Victoria Hospital’s midwifery unit. The family were represented by Irwin Mitchell solicitors in their legal battle against Wiltshire Primary Care Trust, who admitted liability for the failings.

After the trial scheme ended, Ettie no longer had access to powered mobility but her family successfully applied to charity Whizzkids for funding. Ettie’s Wizzybug was returned for another child to benefit from, once she had out-grown it.

Julie Lewis added: “The new loan scheme means that many more severely disabled children, who need help to become mobile, will hopefully be able to have access to a buggy without the need to raise the upfront costs. It’s a fantastic development and we are delighted to be supporting a local invention which has been developed in the South West and will also help youngsters from our region.”