‘These children and adults deserve better’ – Sheffield disability charity unveils £1 million new home bid
A Sheffield charity wants people to get behind an ambitious £1 million fundraising effort to build a new centre of excellence for children with cerebral palsy.
Paces in High Green is the biggest centre for conductive education in the UK, a therapeutic technique which focuses on movement as a way of helping people with neurological conditions.
For the last 19 years, they have been based at the former High Green Secondary School, but have now completely outgrown their temporary home, and have plans to build a new purpose built complex on land adjacent to their current base.
But in order to do this they need your help, and have set their sights on raising £1 million to bring the project to fruition.
Paces CEO, Spencer Pitfield, said that everywhere they look, they are at full capacity.
“The vision of the New Home for Paces campaign is to create a state of the art centre of excellence for conductive education in the UK,” he said.
“1 in every 400 babies have some kind of disorder and as the population grows there are going to be more and more youngsters we can support.
“But this building has 100,000 pounds of asbestos which needs removing and the roof alone needs around £250,000 of work doing on it.
“These children and adults deserve better. I want to live in a country where people in greatest need get the best support.”
Paces takes children as young as three all the way up to the age of 18 with a range of neurological disorders - as well as around 15 adults once a week.
There - as well as traditional lessons in maths and English - they also take part in a programme of physical activity called conductive education, which was created in the 1940s by Hungarian professor Andras Peto.
Based on the principle that if you have had a brain injury the best way to improve your ability to be mobile is through physical activity, the teachers - or conductors as they are called - get the children and adults out of their wheelchairs as much as possible.
By helping them do a programme of repetitive exercise motions, it is hoped their brains will ‘rewire’ themselves, allowing them greater independence and quality of life.
“There is a huge spectrum in all disability but we choose to focus on what their abilities are,” said Spencer.
“These are very able children and adults, they have very quick brains even if their bodies sometimes has physical limitations.”
In 2017, the charity began work on a plan to create a new home to replace their current dilapidated surroundings.
Since then they have had designs done by students from the University of Sheffield’s School of Architecture, started a fundraising drive and began the process of accessing state sources of money.
And Spencer himself will join in the fundraising efforts when he climbs Kilimanjaro in Tanzania this September.
“We need to raise a million pound ourselves and in the next year I want to be a long way towards that target,” said Spencer.
“My Kilimanjaro challenge is a key part of this and I hope people are able to support me.”
On a quick tour of the school, it is clear that the teachers provide a fantastic education for their children, but that a building designed in the 1970s as a secondary school is simply no longer suitable for a highly-specialised school for disabled youngsters.
Teaching assistant Angie Rose, said that while their current building has been a good base for the charity for the last 19 years, there was simply no room for further expansion.
“Before the architects designed the new building they came in they spoke to staff, parents and children about what we needed,” she said.
“One of the things was storage space for 30 wheelchairs because when the children come here, they leave them at the door.
“Also, because it will be purpose built with things like wider doors it will allow the children to access the building better and that will really aid their development.
“When we get in the new building it will be amazing, it really will. We are really looking forward to it.”
Acting headteacher, Ruth Liu, agreed.
“We do a very good job but we have limited facilities and we are hindered by the building,” she said.
“The plan for the new building would be to have lovely spacious classrooms to store equipment in, a hydrotherapy pool and an outdoor play area for the children.
“It would really enhance the offer that we could provide to children and their families.”
Toileting facilities would also be vastly improved, there would be a communal dining space and more room would also make it easier to welcome in parents and the wider community.
“We are currently licensed to look after 35 children but we could look after so many more,” said Ruth.
“We recognise that this is a huge project but I think we are right to aim for the stars.”
To find out more about the New Home for Paces campaign, visit www.pacessheffield.org.uk/newhome.