A support network that helps children with additional needs and their parents has spoken of the difficulties people are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Leeds-based Little Hiccups has seen families with disabled children struggle with a number of issues like working, homeschooling, seeing relatives and the loss of services during lockdown.
Little Hiccups secretary Miriam Watson-Pratt said: “Generally, people are finding it hard homeschooling and working. It’s many times harder when you have a child with disabilities. It’s so much more hands on. There is no escape, no relief as everything has closed down and even simple things like seeing friends and family is hard. Add on that the stress of staying safe if you have a child with a lowered immunity and the worry of catching Covid. It will be lethal to a lot of our families. And the difficulty of accessing services to help your child has increased. A lot are offering Zoom meetings but it’s not ideal.
“We’ve also got a couple of new families that have had a child with disabilities born during lockdown join us. These families had not had a chance to meet anyone else, or access any services at all.”
During the pandemic, Little Hiccups has been providing “Virtual Meets” with counsellor Diane Whitehead to help families discuss their problems.
The results have been impressive but take up of such sessions can be surprisingly quite small. Miriam feels some people are a bit “Zoomed out” following the mushrooming of video-conferencing sessions. But she feels if they can just reach one person then it will all be worthwhile.
Miriam added: “Diane, the counsellor, is so lovely. She’s great at putting everyone at ease. But the reasons we are persisting as well is because one person told us how much it had helped her.
“She’s a mother to two and is homeschooling. Her partner is working long hours so can’t help during the day. She received several bits of bad news during the last few weeks. She was unable to get out in the cold weather with the child concerned so was literally confined. Her only real adult contact were these virtual meetings. We are happy to do them, just to give her and others a chance to have a moan or a rant with a bunch of people that understand.”
Another way that Little Hiccups has been helping families during lockdown is by providing compassion packs. They come in two forms: a hospital emergency kit for those who have had to rush to hospital with a sick child, and a bereavement pack.
The charity’s founder Linsay Medica has been instrumental in the push to provide these. It has registered with product-giving charity In Kind Direct which has helped in making up the packs with things like toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo and a toy. Linsay said: “If we can take a little of that strain away so that when families are admitted then a pack with essentials turns up. It’s something less things to worry about, something useful and positive and it also shows people are thinking about you. It’s very lonely when you’re in hospital, especially in the current climate with no visitors. Now more than ever we need these packs as you can’t expect others to put themselves at risk coming to the hospitals to bring things in.”
Secretary Miriam said the bereavement packs let families know they will always be part of the Little Hiccups family and that they could count on them in their hour of need.
Little Hiccups has linked up with a Yorkshire law firm to help its members to provide for the future.
Ison Harrison solicitors is offering a discount off Wills for Little Hiccups members.
The charity’s secretary Miriam Watson-Pratt said it was incredibly important for families with disabled children to have a Will.
She said: “Ison Harrison have offered us 50 percent off standard wills. However, for wills like these, the costs vary depending on the needs. They are offering a discount still but it will have to be case-by-case determined. We want to help families ensure that their children are looked after by making it easier for them to organise. And of course cheaper. Cost is often a deterrent.”
Her comments were echoed by Little Hiccups founder Linsay Medica who said: “Most parents they expect that their children will be living an independent life by the time anything happens to the parents – for us that isn’t the case. So we have to ensure funding and care arrangements are all taken care of, especially when you have a child who cannot communicate their wishes and expectations.”
Yorkshire law firm Ison Harrison has supported Little Hiccups’ fundraising for several years. One of the firm’s partners, James Thompson, is also the chairman of the family support group.