Charity is ‘lifeline’ for Newtownabbey family

National Lottery funded charity, Sense, who support families of children with complex disabilities, has been a lifeline to the Newbronners from Newtownabbey.

The charity recently received more funding to provide support to families as they deal with the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wendy and Allan Newbronner have three sons who were born deaf and all have sensory and learning needs. They were keen to get their three boys the help they needed, but it was always a challenge to find any long-term support, until they were referred to Sense.

The National Lottery funded organisation has been providing vital support to families for the last five years and they have just received more funding to continue their work for another two years.

Wendy, Allan, Rhys, Dean and Carter.

“Sensory loss and complex needs require long term support especially as children change and develop over the years. A six-week course or family fun day here and there just isn’t enough,” explained Wendy, mum to Rhys, 19, Dean, 16, and Carter, 10.

All three boys are deaf, but Rhys and Carter also have autism and ADHD, and Dean also has a learning disability.

She added: “The additional needs add an extra layer to our hectic everyday life. Our sons need routine, visual aids for the day and time to prepare if changes occur. There are a few organisations that support deaf children, but Sense was different because it could support our additional needs as well.”

Sense was awarded almost £700,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund in 2016. One-to-one, tailored family support provided by family support workers was a big part of the success of this five-year project. The charity has just received an additional £200,000 grant to extend the project by two years.

Wendy explained: “From the moment we got referred to Sense it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Sense organised for a family support officer to come out to the house and spend time getting to know us and worked out what support we needed.

“It was the first practical support we’d received that I didn’t have to jump through hoops for. They gave us one-to-one support when we needed it, they are always at the end of the phone and the boys love going to the after-schools club. For me, being able to drop them off and know they are well looked after gives me peace of mind.”

Colette Gray, Head of Services at Sense said: “The families have been involved in shaping the project the whole way through and that’s given them more confidence and allowed us to address real needs rather than what we assume they need.

“When Covid hit, our families were so vulnerable and they had new needs that we needed to focus on. Receiving the extra funding and being able to continue supporting these families as we move out of lockdown will make a very real difference.”

Wendy said: “When the pandemic first hit we were shielding and when the schools shut we really struggled, but Sense were amazing. I’m really pleased to see that they’ve received some more funding to keep the project going. Any family that receives support from them are extremely lucky - they have been a lifeline to my family.”


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