Heartbreak as lockdown forces club to close

A popular club set up to bridge the gap between children with and without disabilities is closing due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Telford's MyFam project manager Hannah Whitmore and the team in 2018
Telford's MyFam project manager Hannah Whitmore and the team in 2018

Telford’s thriving My Friend and Me (MyFAM) project was set up three years ago to create a safe space for children of all abilities to socialise and have fun.

It attracted up to 150 children a week at sessions held at five community centres and there were plans to open a new club to serve Donnington.

The devastated founder and project manager Hannah Whitmore said that due to the pandemic closure all its staff and volunteers have found new jobs and that all its equipment had been damaged due to months of inactivity.

This would have left the operation with the difficult task of replacing the trained team and finding more than £8,000 to replace the toys and other equipment, room hire fees and insurance costs.

Miss Whitmore said: "This decision has not been taken lightly by any means, and I am devastated that all the hard work and dedication put in by myself and all other team members past and present has now resulted in this."

"We did reopen briefly following the first lockdown, but it wasn't quite the same for many of the children who have disabilities. It didn't have the same effect.They like to see our faces and we were wearing masks.

"Some of them have autism or conditions requiring stable environments. With the pandemic issues we didn't want to make matters worse for them and their parents when they return home after the sessions."

"Our project was unique and bridged the gap in club provision between able and disabled children I don't think there is anything else like it in the area at the moment. There are one or two other organisations for children with special needs, but ours was run in a particular way.

"I'm hoping that what we've achieved with encourage other groups to pick up where we left off in future.

"We were affected by many factors, the pandemic being one of them. We had to stop running the sessions, but we still had to pay for room hire and we had to store away all of our equipment. All the staff had to find other work.

"All our equipment got damaged due to being in storage for such a long time. None of it can be used and its would cost us between £8,000 and £10,000 to replace it all.

"Then there is the cost of training everyone, our insurance policies and safeguarding checks which all adds up to an awful lot of money. To reopen would mean finding the funds to start from scratch.

"We would also have to train people all over again to get going as we always invested a lot in training."

MyFAM operated at centres in Brookside, Madeley, Leegomery, Dawley and Arleston.

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