1 in 5 children might not get a wheelchair this year due to the cost of living crisis

Whizz Kidz launches the 1 in 5 campaign to highlight how rising costs could impact the support it gives to young people

On International Wheelchair Day (1st March 2023) Whizz-Kidz, the UK’s leading charity for young wheelchair users, is launching an urgent appeal to make sure no young person misses out on a wheelchair that they need.

The cost of living crisis has made it 20% more expensive for the charity to provide a child with a wheelchair that meets their needs. This is combined with the charity having an increased demand on its services with more young people reaching out for help and support than ever before. Determined not to give up on or delay these children getting what they need, the charity is asking for the community’s help, so that this crisis will not negatively impact the lives of a generation of children.

Whizz-Kidz supports young wheelchair users and their families. Since starting in 1990, it has helped thousands of young people to lead lives full of fun, freedom and independence. The charity empowers young wheelchair users by providing wheelchairs, equipment, support and confidence-building experiences they need, and campaigning for a more inclusive society.

With limited resources with the current funding, Whizz-Kidz will have a growing waiting list of young people who desperately need equipment that suits their needs, meaning one out of every five young people who reach out to the charity could not receive a wheelchair this year.

The equipment provided by Whizz-Kidz changes lives – lives like 7-year-old Kiyo-Rei (above) who received her powered wheelchair at the end of 2021. This very sweet and dazzling girl who loves to paint, play with sand and dance, was diagnosed with Kniest syndrome, a bone growth dysfunction which means she will remain small as the dysplasia causes dwarfism. This also affects her hearing so Kiyo-Rei uses British Sign Language.

Without a Whizz-Kidz wheelchair, Kiyo-Rei had some challenges and had to bum shuffle to get around the house, which would cause her pain and exhaustion from dragging herself around. Kiyo-Rei’s Mum, Sherin, was told by her local service Kiyo-Rei wasn’t eligible for a wheelchair as she was ‘too small and too young’.

Since receiving her Whizz-Kidz wheelchair she has her independence, which allows her to feel less inhibited, less restricted, and that is the most important thing. She is growing up to be able to think that she doesn’t have to rely on someone else to support her.

Sherin added,

“She can feel she can take control of the situation. We can even hold hands as she drives. She is always happy when she feels she can do something for herself – it just helps to support her; it helps support us.”

7-year-old Zach (above) had a wheelchair from his local children’s services but it didn’t give him the support he needed. His family reached out to Whizz-Kidz as they searched for a wheelchair that would be better for his needs.

During the pandemic, Zach wasn’t able to go out but he still had lots of fun thanks to Whizz-Kidz Clubs, taking part in sessions over Zoom like yoga, dance and self-defence, which the family describe as a real lifeline. Zach was one of the children who received a Whizz-Kidz wheelchair to their door in a remote handover during the pandemic. The charity supplied the family with all the equipment and tools they needed and scheduled follow-up sessions with their therapists on Zoom to ensure they were good to go.

The family say Zach couldn’t wait to try his new wheelchair and he is so much happier, safer and confident thanks to getting the right wheelchair for him. 

Zach said,

“I feel much happier now I have my new chair. It makes me feel safe when I’m playing with my friends. I hope to keep having fun and want to be a doctor.”

Whizz-Kidz, doesn’t just provide wheelchairs but equipment that is most suitable for the young person’s needs. Carmela is a little girl who lives with her parents and a black toy poodle called Tinker (see picture at the top of the page). As Carmela was growing up, her parents realized that she was having trouble walking and sitting without support. After several assessments she received a diagnosis at the age of three: Carmela had LMNA-related congenital muscular dystrophy, a rare and progressive condition.

This condition means that unfortunately, she cannot walk unaided for long periods of time as her muscles are weak. Carmela has a very bubbly personality but she was missing out of family walks and other social opportunities. Her mum Lucy first heard of Whizz-Kidz from their occupational therapist. Carmela already had a powered wheelchair so they decided to apply for a trike. Trikes are important pieces of equipment not only for the playful element, but also because there are a great alternative to painful physiotherapy sessions.

Lucy said, “The trike is a vital piece of equipment for physical therapy. Carmela’s condition requires that she has to be very active and the trike is just perfect for that, we use it at least twice a week. It’s also easier for us to use it for short distances, instead of her powered wheelchair”.

Having a piece for equipment for playing could change their lives forever because it provides emotional well-being and confidence, and helps reduce social anxiety as it enables disabled children to take part in more activities. This is why it is vital that the charity is able to continue helping as many children as possible.  

Sarah Pugh, Chief executive at Whizz-Kidz said;

“The cost-of-living-crisis has had a huge impact on all of society. Sadly, manufacturing and rising overhead costs have increased by 20% meaning that as a charity we need to find funds to cover this deficit in order to continue offering the same level of support. We are incredibly proud of what our supporters help us to achieve, without their generosity and dedication, we would not be able to transform the lives of young wheelchair users across the UK. However, we are asking for more people to join in and help support us now so that every child that needs a wheelchair gets the right equipment at the right time that is right for their individual needs. We appreciate that times are hard for everyone, but we can’t allow  these children to be left without the support they deserve. As a society we need to make sure that every young wheelchair user is mobile, enabled and included.”

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