Sunday, 27 September 2020

Day centre for disabled children finally re-opens

Day centre for disabled children finally re-opens

CAMP Mohawk in Wargrave has re-opened for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.

The day centre for disabled children, which relies on donations, estimates that it has lost more than £50,000 in income as a result of the pandemic.

Almost half of this would have come from fundraising events, including a golf day, a quiz night and a ballroom dancing evening, which have all had to be cancelled, and the rest from other channels.

The Highfield Lane centre, which has five acres of woodland, normally supports about 1,000 young people every year. 

Even now it has re-opened, the number of children allowed on site has been limited due to the current restrictions and the need for social distancing and the centre is only open to registered families.

Tina Jacobs, fundraising manager, said: “We are prioritising families with the greatest need this summer.

“Normally, we have around 60 people per day on site in the school holidays but we have just eight families a day, four in the morning and four in the afternoon.

“We are lucky to have all the open spaces as well as a beautiful hydrotherapy pool.

“Our playground equipment is sanitised between the morning and afternoon sessions and we have plenty of space for everyone. For some, Camp Mohawk is the only place they are able to visit outside their home because of the needs of their child.

“It is really great to be open again, even in a limited way, and offering some freedom, respite and relaxation to young people and their families.

“We were following government guidelines as to when playgrounds were allowed to re-open.

“The health and safety of everyone is absolutely paramount, so even though we were thinking about what to do, we couldn’t act on it.”

Outdoor handwashing facilities were installed during lockdown, which has allowed the charity to open the outdoor playgrounds and pool with a reduced capacity.

The toilets are currently the only indoor facility hat can be used and the children must follow a one-way system.

The music room, ball pool and two sensory rooms are all out of action for the time being.

The centre would normally host day visits from schools but these have been put on hold.

Groups from 35 registered special needs schools and centres have been unable to make their usual weekly visits. During the height of the pandemic, staff offered online support groups and one-to-one sessions, which were funded by the Berkshire Community Foundation and the Tesco Bags of Help scheme.

Mrs Jacobs said these proved to be very helpful as they allowed playworkers to stay in touch with the children and ensure they did not feel isolated.

She said: “When we started to contact the families about the idea of coming back, we realised just how difficult it had been for them.

“They explained some of the problems they had been having because lots of respite services in the area have been closed or have moved online.

“It was particularly difficult for the families who have other children and with there being a need to home-school.

“Depending on their needs, the children don’t enjoy changes to their routine and it creates huge additional stress for them.

“Not being able to come to us can be very unsettling for them. Lockdown has been unsettling for everyone but for a young person with special needs any change in routine can be particularly distressing.”

Despite the financial difficulties brought on by the pandemic, Mrs Jacobs is confident the charity will survive.

She said: “We are eternally positive. We are well supported by corporate partners and that helps to keep the site maintained. We are redoubling our efforts to approach trusts and foundations because there are some funds available for covid-19 recovery and rebuilding for charities, so we are applying for those.

“We have time to put in applications for more funding and we are going to use that time wisely.

“There will be inevitable changes to the way our projects are delivered, as there will be for all charities.

“As long as social distancing continues, we will have to operate with a reduced capacity. It remains to be seen how much we will be able to do this year based on how the numbers go.

“We are looking at ways to open up to more people later this year but we have to see how things might change between now and then.”

Three social groups continue to meet online for the families that are unable to attend and art groups are being piloted.

Camp Mohawk is part of the Woodland Centre Trust, which was established in 1980. It started as a care home and respite centre for children with special needs.

In 2001 the camp re-opened as a day centre, providing holiday activities and space for children during term-time.

For more information, visit

• Henley Rotary Club made a donation of £2,589, which allowed the charity to install new equipment in one of the sensory rooms just before lockdown.

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