Recruitment drive pays off for Hartlepool parents’ group

SAVED: One Hart One Mind One Future members Christine Fewster (front left) and Rebecca Price with practioners who attended forum.
SAVED: One Hart One Mind One Future members Christine Fewster (front left) and Rebecca Price with practioners who attended forum.

A GROUP that gives a voice to parents of disabled children in Hartlepool has been rescued from the brink of folding after a recruitment drive was a success.

The parent-led One Hart, One Mind, One Future group has helped to influence and shape local disabled services in town since it formed in 2009.

The group has given families hope for the future and they say they feel part of a team, to ensure their voices are listened to.

Christine Fewster

But the group was in danger of disappearing late last year following a drop in membership, prompting a major recruitment campaign.

And after setting up a Facebook page and holding a public event at Belle Vue Community Centre, the group has turned things around and is looking forward to a healthy future.

Member Christine Fewster, whose sons James Fewster-Smith, seven, and Harry Fewster-Smith, three, suffer with genetic condition Masa Syndrome, which has left them with learning and physical disabilities, said: “We have increased numbers of parents and carers significantly with regular events, cake and coffee mornings and guest speakers, to give families information that is relevant to them.

“Since setting up the Facebook page in January we have got 68 new members. We were basically at zero so to get 68 new members is absolutely incredible.

“But we know there are potentially 500 families out there in Hatlepool and we are trying to target them.

“The group has given families hope for the future and they say they feel part of a team, to ensure their voices are listened to.”

The group will celebrate their success with a family fun day at the Grand Hotel on Sunday, March 29. It is open to everyone and will run from 1pm-4pm.

Before then, parents and carers will talk about more serious issues at the group’s ninth conference on Tuesday, March 24.

The forum will be held between 9.30am and 2.30pm at the Sir William Grey Suite at Hartlepool Maritime Experience, and existing and non-members are welcome.

Christine, 31, added: “It is for parents to come along and meet people from different services that are available in Hartlepool.

“There will also be talks and workshops which are a good opportunity for people to give their input and help shape our plans for the future.”

Education officials will be among the guest speakers to talk about the importance of inclusion of disabled children.

Tickets for the conference must be booked in advance.

Contact Christine Fewster on 07896054361 or email HartMindFuture@yahoo.co.uk.