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sense of achievement

When a mother decided to address the need for a sensory play centre for disabled children in Liverpool, she didn’t let her lack of business experience stop her. Magali Robathan finds out how Jake’s Sensory World took shape

February 2012, it marked the culmina- tion of several years fundraising, and a lucky collision of Sefton Council’s aims and one mother’s desire to open a centre for her 11-year-old son and other disabled children to use. The centre, which cost £480,000 to


create, has a sensory room featuring bubble tubes, UV lighting, a water bed, fibre optics and projectors and a large ball pool. It also has a soft play room with interactive tunnels, interactive tac- tile walls, hopscotch floor panels and musical steps.

All areas of the play facility are accessible via a ceiling track hoist, and it has two disabled toilets/chang- ing rooms with hydraulic changing beds and ceiling hoists. Jake's Sensory World is part of the

hen Jake’s Sensory World opened in Netherton, Liverpool, at the end of

new Netherton Activity Centre (NAC), which opened in January 2012. NAC features a range of leisure facilities under one roof, including a sports hall, a library, grass and synthetic pitches, a dance studio, health referral suites, an IT suite and a crèche.

BIRTH OF AN IDEA The idea for Jake’s Sensory World was born five years ago. Mothers Jo Hall and Ruth Garrett met when their respective children, Jake and Kady, were babies. It gradually became apparent that Jake was developing at a different pace, and when he was a year old, it was confirmed that he had a rare neurotransmitter disease. This left him with complex needs, and meant that it was very difficult to find leisure activities to suit the whole fam- ily – he has an older sister, Lois. “The idea for Jake’s Sensory World

came about because there is hardly any provision for play in the area suita- ble for disabled children,” says Jo Hall. The family often travelled to a sensory play centre in Preston, called Space, but it meant a long journey and only part of the facility was accessible by a ceiling track hoist, making the rest out of bounds for Jake and other chil- dren like him. “We wished there was somewhere in the area that was fully accessible for Jake, that his family and friends could enjoy too,” says Hall. Hall and Garrett formed a steering group to look into setting up a sen- sory play centre in the Sefton Park area of Liverpool. The pair applied for funding from various bodies, and got start up funding of £5,000 from both the Merseyside Disability Federation and voluntary sector infrastructure organisation Merseyside Expanding Horizons. They then carried out exten- sive market research, which identified a real need for a new play facility for disabled children in the area. The charity, Jake’s Sensory World,

Jake with Jo Hall and Ruth Garrett (left); Children enjoying the fibre optic curtains (right) 52 Read Leisure Management online

was set up four years ago, and applied for the necessary £500,000 in funding from Children in Need, Big Lottery, the Baily Thomas Foundation and the Cloth Workers' Foundation. Although they got through to the last round in sev- eral of their applications, and the Baily Thomas Foundation pledged £30,000, Hall and Garrett didn’t manage to secure the funding they needed. At this point, Hall admits that she began to doubt whether the facility would ever open. Hall and Garrett had a “last ditch attempt, writing to every MP and councillor that had anything to do with Sefton." In early 2009, Peter Dowd, deputy leader of Sefton Council and cabinet minister for Children’s Services, said he was interested in the idea and wanted to meet them.

ISSUE 2 2012 © cybertrek 2012

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