AJ and friends C.I.C. was founded in 2018. During this time, AJ was on life support & his mum Bev felt alone, scared & unsupported. After an extended stay in the hospital, AJ thankfully came off life support & made it home where services to deliver respite care were not able to meet the needs of AJs deteriorating condition
So began the initial steps to create a service that supports families of young people like AJ through providing fun, stimulating & accessible play through respite & stay & play sessions at local community centres. We soon developed into a fully registered charity & provider to support all our VIP children. We call our service users (children) VIPs because AJ visits Lourdes every year & they call the sick & dying VIPs. We loved this so much we brought it from France to the UK.
What started as a wish, a dream & hope at AJs hospital bedside soon became the charity you see today. Our trustees have developed the charity to deliver face to face counselling, wellbeing services, respite & stay & play sessions for children & young people with complex additional needs.
Based in the heart of Birkenhead, we offer counselling to adults, wellbeing sessions & special guest speakers to promote positive mental health to caregivers, siblings and the public who are looking to maintain or boost their own positive mental health.
We Aim To;
- Support those who face hardship, discrimination & vulnerable groups, particularly those young people with complex additional needs & or mental health issues.
- Support caregivers in providing respite care, support services that empower caregivers with much needed time off, engage with them to offer short courses, workshops that up-skill them to cope better with the demanding role of being a caregiver.
- Offer children with life-limiting conditions and or complex additional needs a hub to build meaningful & trusted relationships, provide stimulating activities appropriate for their age & stage of development in a safe environment.
Our objectives are:
- Peer support: We bring people together to build meaningful relationships and human connection in the community, offering a sense of purpose & optimism for the future.
- Initiative work: Our mission is to take a proactive approach to support with a holistic view of diverse people for their uniqueness.
- Purpose: AJ and friends deliver respite sessions, nursery services & counselling/wellbeing sessions that promote positive physical& mental health.
- Client led: We believe individuals have the right to access services & resources based upon what they feel will support them regardless of disability, background or any other minority that marginalises people.
- Innovation: We are the face of change offering a service that is adaptable, collaborative & progressive in its approach to providing support to families of young people who have a child with complex additional needs, a life-limiting condition or a young person who is in the social care system.
- Dignity: We promote dignity & respect of individuals living with mental health issues and disabilities, particularly those with complex additional needs or life-limiting health conditions.
We do this by:
- Offering an accessible day centre complete with a specialist Montessori special needs day nursery, providing sessions for children with complex additional needs.
- Our day centre houses children’s counselling & wellbeing programmes delivered by teams providing mental health support in a welcoming child-friendly environment. Including; Theraplay, Dramatherapy & specialist support for children in the social care sectors.
- Offering sessional respite care for children & young people as part of our “short breaks” programme in our day centre.
- Providing sessions after school, weekends & summer school for those with complex additional needs to access during the school holidays.
What we already know:
- Wirral & Cheshire needs a service that can support children & young people with complex additional needs. We have generous support for those with behaviours that are challenging; however, support for more specialist care is sparse, particularly for complex care young people.
- Special needs schools have limited time to run summer schools, after school clubs & have no weekend clubs for children & young people living with profound disabilities.
- Facilities in Wirral are improving. However, we still have enormous deficits for young people to access activities in everyday areas. Including the cinema, parks, shopping centres, play centres & places children should be able to access who live with disabilities but cannot because of inaccessibility, lack of changing facilities & lack of awareness of the staff that work within these places.
- Local public spaces have zero facilities to change a person in a wheelchair. We visited over five beaches and non-had a toilet complete with a hoist and changing table, leaving those young people in chairs wet in pads for far too long.
- Hospital visits become higher the more a child with complex additional needs is left without appropriate stimulation, social interaction & safe facilities to support the manual handling of young people with disabilities.
We have young people waiting to use our service within our social media platform. We believe the number will be much higher as the demand is there for better services. We have lived experience within this organisation & many trustees are parents of children living with additional needs.
Key milestones have been
- Registration of the charity November 2018.
- Developing the stay & play sessions at local community centres & at Bromborough Children’s Centre.
- We have taken a Mobillo to the Southport air show, providing accessible toilets for people who have additional needs or are wheelchair users a space with safety & dignity, where 150,000 spectators took place.
- We held our curry & quiz night in the Lauries with Dr Joseph Delaney & our lovely singing hands choir attended. This was to raise awareness of promoting positive mental health & our first fundraiser.
- Our joint fundraiser in 2020 with Across charity was a success with a special host from radio Merseyside Roger Phillips, which was a wonderful evening full of positivity, joy & live music.
- We have provided training, including safeguarding training, Makaton workshops, sign language workshops, outdoor yoga, indoor yoga, reiki, crystal healing & wellbeing seminars.
- The 12 weeks to wellbeing pilot was a success working on the importance of self-care.