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Tomoro Agency take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks!

Our wonderful corporate partners Tomoro Agency have recently tackled the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. The weather was treacherous however, they still completed the challenge and managed to raise an incredible £1145 for us here at Leeds Mencap.

Tomoro holds a special place in our hearts, as Hannah, their Digital Account Manager is the granddaughter of the late Joyce Fieldhouse, who was one of Leeds Mencap’s founding members and honorary president. Hannah now also lends her skills volunteering weekly at Leeds Mencap as a Marketing and Communications Volunteer. Here’s what she had to say about the hike:

“Leeds Mencap is an amazing charity supporting families all over Leeds. We chose to fundraise for Leeds Mencap because they are a charity close to our hearts with Joyce Fieldhouse, founder member and former honorary president, being a close family member who passed away last year. Joyce was an amazing woman who set up Leeds Mencap nearly 70 years ago as there was no support back then for people with autism and learning disabilities. We are very proud to be helping such a wonderful charity and a great cause’.

Thank you to everyone who participated and donated to this fundraiser. As we are an independent charity, we rely completely on the generosity of businesses and individuals like those at Tomoro to allow us to continue providing our vital support to young people with learning disabilities and their families.

If you would like to support Leeds Mencap by taking on a challenge please email fundraising@leedsmencap.org.uk

If you would like support with digital advertising then check out here

Seeing the small changes in the children is absolutely amazing

Generous support from West Riding Masonic Charities

Recently we received a generous grant of £4,960 from the the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, part of West Riding Masonic Charities Ltd, supported by the Lodge of Dawn.

This grant will go towards purchasing specialist and sensory equipment for our new lending library which is part of our early years support offer. Our families will be able to borrow a variety of items and equipment and will also be provided with support and videos on how to best use the equipment to support their child’s development.

A spokesman for The Lodge of Dawn said: “We are delighted to be able to support a charity right in the heart of our community. Charitable giving and supporting the community are key parts of what makes Freemasonry the force for good that it is. The four guiding principles in Freemasonry are integrity, friendship, respect and charity, and we believe that the fantastic work that Mencap are doing in Leeds with this library project embodies that too”.

Cath Lee, CEO of Leeds Mencap said “On behalf of everyone at Leeds Mencap, I would like to thank the The Lodge of Dawn, West Riding Masonic Charities Ltd and all of the Freemasons of Yorkshire, for the grant recently awarded to us. This grant is the vital last piece in the jigsaw of funding for our new SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) toy and resources library. 

The donation will help us buy some particularly expensive and specialist items for the library that families would never be able to afford by themselves. Families will be able to borrow specialist toys and equipment to support their child to develop their abilities and learn and play at home.

The idea of the library came out of the pandemic when children with learning disabilities were even more isolated than most and their opportunities for intensive developmental  play restricted resulting in their learning falling behind. We realised with the right equipment and support at home families would be able to continue to support their child’s development.  We can’t thank you enough for making this possible.”

Thank you so much for the support.

You can find out more about the Lodge of Dawn here

Stowe Family Law supports Leeds Mencap’s Business Club

Stowe Family Law supports Leeds Mencap’s Business Club

Stowe Family Law have joined the Leeds Mencap Business Club, an initiative from Leeds Mencap, offering businesses the opportunity to make new connections, receive marketing benefits, whilst supporting this fantastic local charity.

Cath Lee, CEO at Leeds Mencap says ‘We are excited to offer this as a way for businesses to support Leeds Mencap, but also to benefit businesses. The support from businesses like Stowe Family Law is making a real difference to children and young people with learning disabilities in the Leeds community.’

Stowe Family Law is the largest specialist family law firm in the UK, with offices in locations throughout the UK including central Leeds. The firm, opened its first office in a converted cobblers shop in Leeds. Today, they have grown with offices in over 30 locations in England including London, Manchester, Bristol, York and Birmingham. With a large team of 75.

Leeds Mencap, a local, independent charity supports over 430 people with learning disabilities and their families each year as well as over 4,900 people through its facilities at The Vinery Centre, which includes a community nursery and meeting space and room hire. It relies on charitable donations in order to continue its vital work.

This year has been very challenging for the charity sector and Leeds Mencap is no difference. In a recent survey, 94% of Leeds Mencap families said that they have felt more isolated during Covid-19. The impact of the pandemic on families who have children and young people with learning disabilities has put both parents and their children under incredible strain, with many experiencing increased anxiety and worsening mental and emotional health.

Cath Lee, CEO of Leeds Mencap, says: “We are absolutely delighted with the generosity shown by Stowe Family Law. By supporting Leeds Mencap they will help us to continue to support families when they need us most.”

Tom Suttill at Stowe Family Law LLP says “We are proud to be a member of the Leeds Mencap Business Club. As a family law firm that was founded in Leeds, we feel the importance of supporting local families, which is why we’ve chosen to partner with Leeds Mencap who make a real difference to children and young people with learning disabilities in Leeds. I would encourage other local businesses to get involved and help the charity’s wonderful work continue to grow.”

For more information on joining the Leeds Mencap Business Club or to support children with learning disabilities across Leeds, please visit www.leedsmencap.org.uk. And for more information about Stowe Family Law, please visit https://www.stowefamilylaw.co.uk/offices/leeds/  

Willmott Dixon Interiors show eggscellent support for Leeds Mencap this Easter

Leeds Mencap have received a delicious donation this Easter, as their partners at local construction company Willmott Dixon Interiors, specialists in interior fit out and refurbishment, have worked with their suppliers to deliver over 400 Easter eggs to support the charity’s causes and children in the area.

In the run up to Easter the charity have been distributing eggs to children and young people with learning disabilities who attend their youth clubs and play schemes, alongside children from Jimbo’s Community Nursery. They have also given some families in the local area, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill, a chocolate egg as part of their weekly food parcel, as a special surprise for the children to enjoy.

Charlotte Stone, Leeds Mencap Fundraising Manager, said: “We are so grateful for this support from Willmott Dixon Interiors and their partners. Many families in the Leeds area have faced real struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic. Providing them with an Easter egg will hopefully give children a little Easter treat that they may not otherwise have got.”

Brian Cole, Willmott Dixon Interiors Senior Build Manager, added: “Willmott Dixon Interiors feel privileged to be able to help such a worthy charity, and are proud of the support we have received from our supply chain partners, in enabling us to achieve the target set by Leeds Mencap. We look forward to being able to assist Leeds Mencap in any way we can during 2021 and beyond”.

If you are a company or individual who would like support Leeds Mencap, please get in touch with the fundraising team on 0113 235 1331 or email fundraising@leedsmencap.org.uk. To donate, please visit our website www.leedsmencap.org.uk/donate.

It has never been so important to be there for our children and their families

It has never been so important to be there for our children and their families

I am Becky, the Deputy Manager of Jimbo’s community nursery which is based in the Vinery Centre. On a day to day basis I support the nursery manager with the general running of the nursery and also oversee our Preschool Playroom.

In Jimbo’s we can take children from aged 6 months up until they leave us to go to school. We also run an after school club and holiday club for primary school aged children. We are a mainstream setting; however we provide care for vulnerable children and a high number of children with additional needs. It is a great honour to be part of such an inclusive setting.

Whilst in nursery, the children explore and experience lots of planned activities which help their development, this can range from maths, reading or simply communicating with their friends. We also work with outside agencies to support children the best we possibly can, including the inclusion team and speech and language to name just a few.

I have worked in childcare for around 10 years now and I absolutely love seeing how much of a difference nursery makes to the children’s development and confidence at such an important time of their lives.. Whether it is seeing them take their first steps in the baby room or watching them grow into confident children when they leave us to go to “big school”. It is absolutely magical.

My support doesn’t just stop with the children, I support their families too. As we are in a deprived area, a number of our families can have daily struggles, especially during recent times as we go through the pandemic, it has never been so important to be there for our children and their families.

It has been really sad to see how the pandemic has affected our families. People have lost their jobs and some have sadly lost loved ones. We receive weekly food to distribute to our parents and at Christmas all of our families got a lovely big hamper which had lots of food for them to enjoy over the Christmas period. Just seeing the reactions’ on our parent’s faces when we gave them the food parcels was priceless! One family said “This hamper will help feed my children in the run up to Christmas. This is a huge help for us as we are a low income family.” Another said “It was indeed a great surprise to receive such a perfect gift from the school. This demonstrates the true love and care they receive from school, even when on a break. We are grateful”

It was a brilliant feeling knowing our children and families had foods in their cupboards. Through the pandemic we regularly contact and update parents, sending work packs home to help occupy children or sometime they might just need another adult to talk to for 10 minutes. Little things like this can make a huge difference.      

I started working in childcare as an apprentice when I left high school and went on to complete my level 2 and 3 in Children’s Care and Development. I then worked as a nursery nurse in a number of settings, before joining Leeds Mencap in 2016 in my first managerial role, which was a proud moment for me.  I have worked in a number of nurseries, but nothing comes close to what we do in Jimbo’s to support our children and their families. It’s lovely to hear the feedback from parents and the difference we are making. I am so proud to tell people that I work at Jimbo’s Community Nursery and Leeds Mencap.

One parent of a child with additional needs who I helped to secure a school place in a specialist provision said “Thank you so much Becky for all your help and support I really don’t know what I would have done without you and where my child would be without you.” 

That is the reason why I come to work every day to make a difference to these children.

There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ at our clubs and playschemes!

I’m Dana, the Clubs and Playschemes Coordinator at Leeds Mencap. I started at Leeds Mencap as a volunteer on our playschemes, before getting a job, first on the playschemes, then at one of our youth clubs too, before getting my current role late last year.

A team of amazing staff and I run youth clubs for children and young people aged 8-25 years and playschemes during the holidays for 4-18 year olds with additional needs, as well as a club for siblings of those with additional needs. These activities provide a chance for members to socialise, play and share experiences, as well as providing parents and carers invaluable respite.

There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ at our clubs and playschemes! Exactly what we offer and what our children get out of these activities definitely differs from child to child! We plan our activities around the wide range of children’s specific needs and interests. For some children attending the clubs, it can offer a time to develop confidence and friendships with peers. For some, it can be about developing independence and practicing ‘real-life’ skills such as cooking or baking, as well as finding out more about the importance of exercise, or healthy eating. For others, our activities may provide a time to play and explore different environments, often through the senses when we do messy or sensory play.

Our clubs and playschemes are enjoyed by the attendees, but also benefit the parents too. Here is some of the feedback we have received:

‘This continues to be a lifeline for us during holidays and a welcome chance for my daughter to meet & play with peers in a suitable environment’ Parent of a child who attends.

‘It has given me some place to escape with people that understand what it’s like to have a disabled sibling.’ Molly who attends Sibling Group

‘We cannot recommend these playschemes enough! My boys find them fun. And they’re especially helpful if your child depends on routine. My boys love it!’ Parent

‘I like coming to Leeds Mencap because it gives my parents a chance to do things for themselves and have some time on their own, and then it gives me a chance to come and see my friends and my boyfriend.’ Emily who attends Friday Club

Unfortunately, the impact of COVID restrictions has meant that for a lot of our members they can’t get out to see friends or do other things that they usually enjoy. We have worked hard to adapt and to keep our activities going in a variety of ways such as Zoom sessions, activity videos as well as face-to-face sessions. Doing this has allowed the members to maintain interactions with their friends, having time to do something a bit different for a while, whilst still keeping safe.

Watching our children and young people develop is very satisfying, knowing that they are having fun, making friends and gaining essential skills needed for their futures.


Leeds Mencap Will Week – 15th to the 19th March

Leeds Mencap Will Week – 15th to the 19th March 2021

You’re never too young or too old to make a Will, and the process is often a lot easier than you’d think.

We are partnering with Oakwood Solicitors in Leeds again this March, to give you the chance to make or change your Will in return for a donation to Leeds Mencap.

Julie Bailey who took part in Will Week last year said ‘I was fortunate to obtain a will via Leeds Mencap last year. I was very impressed with Oakwood Solicitors; Charlotte was excellent and very knowledgeable about providing for complex and special needs. I highly recommend Oakwood and supporting Leeds Mencap in this way’.

Anne Taylor also took part and said We thought the service was brilliant. It was something we had been meaning to do, but just had not got around to it.  Oakwood Solicitors were very easy to work and knowledgeable, they really put us at ease’.

The appointments will be done online via zoom or over the phone and will take place between the 15th to the 19th March. During your appointment, the Oakwood specialist will go through everything needed to draw up either a Standard* or Joint Will and invite you to make a donation to Leeds Mencap.

This appointment can also include specific advice on providing for a child that has a learning disability. Oakwood Solicitors can advise on any necessary detail in your Will, with no additional cost. This can include adding an SND trust (Special Needs and Disabilities) for no extra charge.

We have a limited amount of places so they will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

All donations to Leeds Mencap are gratefully received

You can make a donation directly to Leeds Mencap or anonymously through Oakwood Solicitors, who will send it onto us.

· A standard Will normally costs £150

· A joint Will normally costs £250

· £50 for amendments to an existing Will

To find out more or to reserve a place, please email caitlin.hazell@leedsmencap.org.uk

‘Oliver felt safe and as a parent that’s the main thing you want’

Nicola tells us about Oliver’s Leeds Mencap journey

To say that the Hawthorn playroom at Leeds Mencap was beneficial for Oliver in his first few years is a huge understatement.  I’m so grateful to the two Mums who recommended Leeds Mencap to me, after having attended with their own children.  It has been invaluable for both me and Oliver. 

We started going when Oliver was just 5 months old and went weekly, every Friday for almost 3 years.  We attended other groups too, some for children with additional needs, some not, but this was the first place Oliver was alone in a setting without me.  This took a while for him to get used to and to settle in, but he soon got used to the staff and became familiar with the other children and loved spending time there.  I equally enjoyed spending a few hours in the parents’ room; a chance to relax, moan, laugh, talk, listen, and enjoy a coffee with other parents who understood the ups and downs, without the need for any explanations.  It also gave me a chance to get valuable information and advice from experienced staff and other parents, which I genuinely don’t think I would’ve got anywhere else.

During his time at Hawthorn, Oliver achieved lots of fantastic milestones, gross motor skills like crawling and walking, fine motor skills through various activities and we saw his communication skills improve. Time there also gave him some independence from me and gradually built his confidence around other children and making friends.

In the early days, I remember Oliver spent a lot of time in the Sensory Room when things became a bit noisy for him.  He was encouraged to have a go at everything, whilst also working towards his next steps and targets, which were always discussed and agreed with me, ensuring I felt included and heard.  Everything is broken down into smaller, easier to achieve steps. I found this particularly helpful for working on things with Oliver at home, as well as the many tips (and encouragement) I got on things where I felt we were making slow progress.  The team at Leeds Mencap were able to offer advice on things, which I either wasn’t aware of or wouldn’t have come across on my own. They were also able to offer resources from the playroom to help Oliver, things that we could keep practising with Oliver at home or during the holidays.

There are often such a wide range of abilities in the room on any given day, some children with additional health issues, but nothing is too difficult for the specialist staff to deal with and nothing stops them including all the children in everything.  The staff would always take the time to ask how Oliver’s week had been and were genuinely interested to hear the good and bad, whether he had been ill or had achieved something new.  The room at Leeds Mencap has a great positive energy that comes from the staff and that’s reflected in how happy the children are too, and how much trust parents like me have in leaving their children in the playroom.  Oliver felt safe and as a parent that’s the main thing you want, but at the same time, I knew that he was valued individually and was being pushed to do the best that he could.

I still miss that feeling, of knowing that no matter how exhausting or bad the week had been, there was still Hawthorn to look forward to on a Friday!

Nicola, Mum of Oliver

‘Seeing the small changes in the children is absolutely amazing!’

I’m the Team Leader at Hawthorn, a specialist playroom at Leeds Mencap which is for very young children with learning disabilities aged between 0-3 years. We usually care for nine children a day, but at the moment due to COVID restrictions, we are only able to see three children.

The children have a range of learning disabilities – this could be Down’s Syndrome, autism or in some cases, there might not be a diagnosis but the child may be showing delays. Many of them have additional health conditions too.

In the playroom, we work with each child doing their individual next steps so we can help them to sit up, walk, build up their confidence or support early language skills.

A typical day is quite varied, but at the start of each session, we always have a chat with the parents to catch up and to see what they have been doing at home, to learn if there are any issues with the children and overall how their week has been. We will then encourage the parents to take their child into the playroom, where we will work on developing different skills with the child.

This week, we have been putting baubles on the Christmas tree, adding stickers onto felt trees, painting, posting and playing with reindeer food – oats!

Everything we do is tailored to the child. With some of the children, we might start with getting them to look in the mirror and find themselves and watching movements. For typical developing children, you can take things for granted and steps are consolidated more quickly. For children with learning disabilities, learning new skills takes much longer and they need much more time to practice each step before they can move onto the next.

We might focus on developing confidence in the children or if they can walk already, we might focus on one small next step. Some of the children when they first learn to walk, walk with their arms up so we will spend time working with that child on walking with their arms down to help their balance.

It’s sometimes really minor things that we spend time working on, but by breaking down each step, the child can achieve their goal.

Many of the children have never been left with anyone before, so we deal with a lot of separation anxiety. For some parents, it might be the first time away from their child since they were born. When a child finally settles – it’s a massive achievement and the parent can have a bit of a break and know that their child is being looked after in a safe space.

Everything we do is geared towards getting the children ready for nursery and then school. The job is incredibly rewarding. I love seeing the changes in the children – whether it’s big or small. We celebrate every new skill learnt as for these children, the small steps are huge. Every week, we can see changes in the children and it’s amazing to see.

One boy was non-verbal when he started at the playroom, we were so happy when he said his first word ‘hiya’. Now he chats all day every day when he is with us.

It’s hugely satisfying knowing that at the end of the day, the children are gaining essential skills needed for school.

Here are some of the things that parents have told us about how the playroom has helped them:

“Thank you all for the incredible input you have made to my child’s wellbeing and development. Thank you also for the time given to me as Mum. Her time with you all has been hugely beneficial and we are very thankful for all that the charity has provided to us.”

“Thank you for all the hard work you put in to supporting my child. He really has come on leaps and bounds since been here and he really enjoys his time with the staff’’

“The care and support you have shown my child is indescribable. The understanding you have on my child’s needs and the passion you have to work with them is just amazing’’

Jess Reed

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