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Mothers Praise Pioneering Disability Lifeline

Posted 02:29PM on Tuesday 05 June 2018

Two young mums have spoken movingly about how their lives and those of their children have been transformed by our Brighter Futures Project in the Fermanagh and Omagh council area.

The service, run by Positive Futures and funded by Big Lottery, supports children with a disability from birth until age 12, as well as their families. It is designed to address the isolation of people in rural areas, improve the mental health of parents and provide new opportunities for children.

Wendy Black from Clabby has four sons, two of whom have an autistic spectrum condition. She told an audience in Fermanagh House, Enniskillen, including the DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Michelle Gildernew, that she was now studying for qualifications and planned to sit her driving test.

Yvonne McManus from Bellanaleck described the freedom she felt when she was able for the first time to take a break from caring around the clock for her son Jamie.

She said: “It’s difficult to imagine if you’re not caring for someone, but even the chance to go for a cup of coffee or out for a meal with your husband can make all the difference in the world.”

A highlight of the event in Fermanagh House was a dance and movement display by some of the children supported by the project, facilitated by Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre.

Agnes Lunny, Chief Executive of Positive Futures, said: “Most learning disability services focus on the child with the disability. We believe that in order to make a real difference it is essential to support the whole family. For the first time, we are providing support from a child’s birth. Parents, particularly in isolated rural areas, can become trapped in a cycle of 24–hour care which affects their mental health and the wellbeing of their other children. It’s not anybody’s fault – it’s just the reality of having a child with a disability in your family.

“This project is focusing on families in the Fermanagh and Omagh council area but, given its success in the relatively short time it has been running, we would like to see it extended to other areas of Northern Ireland. We are very grateful to Big Lottery for enabling this pioneering service to get started in this area.”

Brighter Futures is one of a range of services provided by Positive Futures in Fermanagh. Others include a family support service for older children and their families, supported living for adults with a disability, an Autism Outreach Service for children and young people and a number of bespoke arrangements to support adults with complex needs in day activities.

Our picture shows Wendy (2nd from left) and Yvonne (2nd from right) with Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Arlene Foster MLA, Pauline O’Hagan, Manager, Brighter Futures, Agnes Lunny, CEO Positive Futures and Michelle Gildernew MP.