Children in Yorkshire are waiting too long for vital equipment such as wheelchairs, says a charity. Catherine Scott reports
Austin Atkinson from Wakefield is one of nearly 50 children in Yorkshire currently waiting for vital equipment.
Austin, 12, has a very rare type of muscular dystrophy that affects everything he does.
Although he can take a few steps using a walking frame, Austin relies on his wheelchair to get about – without it he wouldn’t be able to do something as simple as go to school.
Currently Austin has a wheelchair which is light and manoeuvrable – allowing him to move himself around without relying on adult support. But he has outgrown it.
The wheelchair offered as a replacement by the local authority is difficult for even an adult to push, let alone for Austin to move by himself, so the family have turned to the charity Newlife for help raising the £2,588 needed to get him the right wheelchair for his needs.
Dad, Richard, said: “We are very grateful for the equipment Austin has been provided with up to this point, but the whole process of getting him a new wheelchair has been incredibly slow. He was measured over a year ago and he will have grown again since then.
“The chair he has been offered won’t allow him to have the independence he is used to – he’s a bright and sociable boy but without the right chair he is going to be isolated.
“Not having the right equipment, at the right time is holding disabled children back and not allowing them to reach their full potential. Austin isn’t asking anything outlandish – this is something that he needs in order to be able to live his day-to-day life and to succeed at being his best self.”
Newlife has current applications for 49 children in Yorkshire who are in desperate need of equipment and must raise £53,540.
Consultant nurse at Newlife, Karen Dobson, said: “One of the most heart-breaking parts of my job is when we have to say no to a child and family who are in desperate need of help because we simply don’t have the funds available.
“I know it’s hard to believe but the reality is that many of these children have already been refused essential equipment by their local health services.
“That is why they have turned to us, but unfortunately we haven’t got the funds to help them right now.”
Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, is demanding local health services in Yorkshire radically rethink how they treat disabled children after it had to step in to provide equipment for more than 1,500 of the county’s children at a cost of £1.3m.
The charity has spent more money in Yorkshire than in the whole of Scotland or Wales, indicating that there is a serious problem with the statutory provision of disability equipment for children in the county.
For more information visit newlife.co.uk