The end of an era: celebrating our partnership with The Openwork Foundation

Openwork Foundation story banner featuring two photos of young George in his AFK-funded powerchairs

The Openwork Foundation has supported my AFK with grants for over 20 years, helping us provide specialist, life-changing mobility equipment for disabled children and young people.

 

In 2017 The Openwork Foundation chose my AFK as their national charity partner and we embarked on a four-year partnership, which was especially valuable this year as the pandemic raised new challenges for our charity and so many others. As this most recent collaboration comes to a close, we’d like to reflect on our successes and thank The Openwork Foundation for their many years of support.

 

Two key services have grown significantly since the beginning of this partnership – our advocacy work and our individual fundraising support – which has enabled us to do some incredible things! 

Advocacy

Our advocacy support service ensures that local NHS wheelchair services are offering appropriate support and supplying equipment to young people who need it. Some families are not always sure what support they are entitled to from the NHS, so our aim is making sure they get the right information, support and care.

 

With our in-depth knowledge of NHS wheelchair services and our position as advocates, in many instances we can ensure that these services provide the most appropriate support to disabled individuals and their families. This work aims to reduce the amount of time individuals and families wait to receive vital, life-changing mobility equipment.

 

Since the beginning of our partnership, our advocacy support has successfully enabled 47 families and young people to gain access to statutory support, and we have ensured £42,000 worth of equipment has been provided by the NHS to applicants who were initially denied support or thought they were not entitled to any support.

Individual Fundraising

Specialist, bespoke equipment is extremely expensive, and we regularly see children and young people on our waiting list needing powered wheelchairs or other equipment that costs over £20,000. In the past, we saw funding equipment at this cost becoming increasingly difficult, particularly with a small budget. This meant applicants often waited for 6-12 months for vital, life-changing equipment. It has therefore become more important than ever to encourage our applicants to broaden their fundraising beyond their application to us.

 

Thanks to The Openwork Foundation’s support, we have been able to offer more help to individuals and families by supporting their fundraising efforts, as well as applying for funding from other sources on their behalf. We know that applying for grants and raising funds can be a lengthy and complicated process, so we use our expertise to help our beneficiaries raise funds from a variety of sources, helping them set up fundraising pages, applying on their behalf to organisations that provide individual grants, and approaching local businesses for support.

 

By spreading the costs across several charities, individuals and businesses allows us to fund and contribute to more vital specialist equipment than would otherwise be possible, whilst reducing wait times for beneficiaries to a fraction of the time they once were – in the year 2019-2020, equipment was being ordered within 3 months on average, with all equipment being ordered in under six months.

Toddler on a Wizzybug powerchair with his twin brother standing next to him

Helping families like George's

10-year-old George loves swimming, reading and doing arts and crafts. George has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, a rare genetic neuromuscular condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and loss of movement. This affects all his movement, including his ability to walk, breathe and swallow.

 

We first met George when he was 15 months old; his family applied for a Wizzybug wheelchair at the recommendation of George’s physiotherapist. The electric Wizzybug is designed to look like a toy car, and is made to suit a wide range of disabilities to help young children prepare to transition into a wheelchair in a fun way. George’s Wizzybug, funded by The Openwork Foundation in 2012, gave him the ability to play with his twin brother Harry and move around more independently.

 

AFK helped fund several wheelchairs for George over the years, most recently a Paravan Piccolino powerchair. George can’t stand unsupported and relies on his powerchair for all his mobility needs – it gives him the freedom to be in a seated or reclined position to allow him to participate in activities safely and comfortably at home and at school. He plays powerchair football and goes horseback riding with Riding for the Disabled.

George smiling in his school uniform reclined in his powerchair
George smiling in the woods on a misty autumn day, sitting in a red powerchair

George’s mum Liz told us more about the impact this equipment has had for her family:

 

“When we first made contact with AFK in 2012 they were incredibly warm and welcoming. They came to our house, listened and showed genuine care and a commitment to help George. This strong level of support has been ongoing ever since, not just for George, but for our whole family.

 

AFK have now provided George with two amazing powerchairs which have given him vital independence alongside a wealth of new opportunity. Amazingly, AFK’s support doesn’t stop there, as they also ensure that the annual servicing and maintenance costs of wheelchairs are covered. For a growing boy who likes to explore “off road”, this ongoing commitment from AFK to maintain George’s independence is invaluable.

 

As a family, we feel incredibly grateful and lucky to have AFK’s continued support.”

Thank you!

Our partnership with The Openwork Foundation has been an incredible success over the past four years. We thank everyone at The Openwork Foundation for encouraging our mobility team to engage with new and innovative techniques to help as many disabled children and young people as we can, meaning our beneficiaries receive their equipment as quickly as possible while allowing us to help even more families like George’s.

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