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Being active – good for the mind and the body!

February 15, 2021

This is a guest post.

I recently read about an amazing young man named Oliver Voysey and his efforts to raise more than £178,000 for the activity centre that taught him “nothing is impossible”.

Oliver is just 12 years old and suffered a brain injury shortly after birth. He and his family regularly travelled to the Calvert Trust in the Lake District, an activity centre for both children and adults with disabilities. The Calvert Trust, like many similar activity centres around the country, is facing financial difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a solicitor who acts for children who have suffered brain injuries, I am familiar with the crucial work carried out at this type of activity centre and the benefit this has for the children and their families. Children with brain injuries can attend the centres and engage in a wide range of accessible activities in a safe environment with skilled support from people who are experienced in caring for those with disabilities.  

Whether it be climbing, abseiling, caving, canoeing, sailing, cycling, dance, painting, archery, swimming or horse riding (to name just a few of the amazing activities offered!), children who have suffered brain injuries deserve to have the same access and facilities to engage, enjoy, learn and thrive from these activities. Activity centres provide specially adapted equipment and a safe environment for children of all abilities to take part in activities that might otherwise be inaccessible to them.

And it’s not just about having great fun; there can be huge benefits to brain-injured children and their families:

  • Activity and play is essential to a healthy lifestyle for all children. Activity centres allow brain-injured children to exercise in an accessible environment.
  • They provide a safe environment to develop their skills e.g co-ordination, balance, communication, mobility, decision making, self-regulation and independence.
  • Children with brain injuries can socialise with their peers and enjoy activities together, allowing them an important sense of inclusion and a great opportunity to build their social skills.
  • Just like Oliver, who believes that “nothing is impossible”, engaging in physical activities helps boost self-esteem, confidence and resilience in children who have suffered brain injuries.

I have also had the opportunity to visit Penniwells Riding for the Disabled Centre, an activity riding centre for disabled children and adults, where I learnt about the benefits of riding to children with brain injuries. Riding demands physical and mental concentration. It develops balance, promotes core strength and can relax tight muscles, common in children with certain types of Cerebral Palsy, through gentle movement.

Sadly, many of my clients and their families have really struggled throughout the pandemic. Restrictions have meant that they have been unable to engage in their usual rehabilitative activities. Many children who would usually receive crucial support, care, therapy and education from people who are specialists in caring for those children with brain injuries have not been able to. This has left their families in the challenging position of fulfilling all of these roles. This can leave little time to just be a family together!

Further, activities centres have had to remain closed and are now facing financial difficulties as a result. If the centres do not receive the funding they need to stay afloat and reopen when restrictions allow them to do so, some may end up closing for good. This would be devastating to those children and their families who use them, which include some of my clients.

I am in awe of Oliver and his fundraising efforts as well of those around the country who have donated and continue to raise funds to support disabled activity centres through this difficult time. I also hope that the Government and Local Authorities ensure that adequate support is in place to ensure that the centres can reopen for children with brain injuries to continue to benefit from.

Mollie Benjamin, Senior Solicitor in the Brain Injury Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.

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