08 March 2010

Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley is supporting Northamptonshire County Council’s big push to find more people to support disabled children and their families needing a short break.

The Northamptonshire celebrity has given her backing to Share the Care week, a national initiative organised by the Shared Care Network, which aims to raise public awareness about the need to recruit more carers.

Short breaks are regular opportunities for families to have a break from caring while the child enjoys spending time with a short break carer. They provide opportunities for disabled children to make new friends, develop their independence and enjoy new activities.

Jo, whose sister Frances has learning disabilities, said: “We grew up together; and there were times when it was really difficult. Frances didn’t like sleeping very much, and we used to go for days and nights without any kind of sleep. It was partially hard for my mum and dad because they were looking after her 24/7 and at times they came to breaking point.

“Life would have been a lot easier if they had had people there just to take Frances out even if it was for a couple of hours. If it was for a day, if it was for a night, that would have been amazing. And that’s why I’m really pleased to support Shared Care Network's campaign to encourage more people to come forward to become carers to give families with a disabled child the break they so desperately need. I hope many more people will come forward to be the BIG difference to a disabled child and their family.”

A national survey has identified that awareness of short breaks amongst the general public is low, with only three in 10 people knowing about the opportunity to become a short break carer in comparison to fostering where eight in 10 people know about the opportunity to foster. Despite this low awareness a high number of people, one in five, would consider giving a break if only they knew they could.

Cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Andrew Grant said:"Share the Care week is all about highlighting the valuable role these volunteers play in the lives of disabled children.

“All kinds of people join our family link service. No experience of disability is needed, full training and support is provided and an allowance is paid for the time spent with the child. This can be such a rewarding experience with carers enjoying the time they spend with the children. We would urge more people to get involved to be part of this very special service which can make such a positive difference to a child’s life.”

Family Link carers come from a variety of cultures and backgrounds; their ages and circumstances vary greatly. There are married carers and single carers, carers who have their own children and carers with limited child care experience. Some of our carers work full time and some are retired.

Applicants don’t need to have previous experience of working with disabled children and necessary training and ongoing support is provided. What is important is that people are able to give the gift of your time of a few hours day care or an overnight stay each month.

For more information about Family Link please call the county council on 0300 126 1009.