Alafia provides a pro-active outreach advice and guidance service for some of the most hard to reach families in Reading. Our vital service seeks to contribute to the Reading Borough Council “Tackling Poverty and Narrowing the Gap Strategy” priorities by ensuring eligible families claim their full benefit entitlement (Tackling Poverty Strategy) as well as being empowered to access Employment, Education and Training Opportunities. We achieve our aims by providing:
- Information, Advice and Guidance
- Health and Well-being Activities
- Short Breaks for Children
We deliver these aims via our monthly daytime Carer Support Group meetings, monthly Family Support Group social engagement evenings, and through the many educational and respite opportunities.
Advice and guidance at Alafia continues to occupy the majority of our work. In order to supplement to our core service Alafia has engaged and promoted the needs of black and ethnic minority children to service providers including nominating Florence Chaloledwa, the eventual winner of ‘Inspirational Mother of the Year 2015’ at the ‘Include Me2 awards’ at the NEC Birmingham on 1st May 2015.
Advice and Guidance Topics:
- Housing Applications
- SEN Education Options
- Child Safeguarding Proceedings
- Referrals for Crisis Funds
- Applications for emergency funds from Reading Dispensary Trust
- Benefit applications
- Filing successful Mandatory Re-considerations
- Support with transition from children’s to adult services
- Attending diagnostic appointments, and delivering therapeutic family intervention
- Signposting to carers and children’s services including Food Banks
- Advocacy, Translation, and Facilitation related to the above issues
We run a monthly support group throughout the year. We try to maximise partnership working in order to access current resources available in the community. The aims of these day time monthly support groups are to:
- Reduce social isolation
- Signpost and facilitate access to mainstream services
- Provide access to peer support
Our Carer Support Groups 2014-2015 at a glance.
Alafia provides opportunities for families who are struggling due to financial pressures, and responsibilities of caring for a child with disabilities to have a short break and respite from these pressures with away days and soft play days.
- During the past year, there was an uptake of 152 Alafia children’s short breaks
- Providing a safe space to manage social situations for carers, particularly those looking after children with autism
- Facilitating integration of families from different minority ethnic backgrounds
- Providing disabled children and sibling carers a rare opportunity to mix solely as siblings
- 20 individuals / 5 Families Day Trip to Camp Mohawk with additional entertainment (Pottery, Facepainters, Circus Skills trainers)
- 18 individuals / 6 Families trip to Paultons Park
- Toys distributed to 15 families (disabled children and their sibling carers)
- 30 individuals / 8 Families (Thanks to Happy Days charity)
This monthly outreach and peer support group which started as a 3 month pilot has been a huge success and the families have come to expect it. The first meeting was supported by Reading Healthwatch who provided Polish translation for publicity materials.
The aims of the project are to:
- Engage the eastern European community
- Encourage fathers to attend a parent support group
- Provide short-breaks for children with disabilities from minority ethnic communities
- Reduce social isolation through peer support
- Facilitate access to mainstream support
The group runs on the second Monday of each month, to coincide with the soft-play centre’s Special Educational Needs night. Additionally, the session are used to facilitate introduction to other mainstream services. This has included: Berkshire Carers (Promoting Carers Assessments), Adviza (Offering advice and support around new Educational and Health Care Plans) , Health Visitors promoting Healthy Start vitamins and dental hygiene, health professionals offering advice on toilet training and sleep support, and the Reading Families forum.
- 245 attendances over the past year
- Reduced social isolation – Opportunity to meet other families, from the same and diverse cultural, and caring background
- Carers develop the confidence to leave the home with children with behavioural difficulties
- Access to professional advice and guidance in a SEN friendly location
- Parents feel empowered to integrate, meet families from the wider community and utilise mainstream services
The centrally located venue and specific audience of the meeting meant we had unexpected and added benefits including:
- 3 new registrations to Alafia based on meeting parent carers at the venue
- Engaging with the non-BME parent carers and enabling them to engage with professionals at no extra resource cost to the service.
Alafia Open Day was held following feedback from parents who cited an absence of local accessible support provision over the summer holidays. The aims of the day were to:
- Promote our service and remit to the breadth of BME communities
- Facilitate access to mainstream support organisations
- Tackle health inequality for BME Carers by providing accessible on the spot health checks
There were over 100 registered attendees (and more drifted in out of curiosity!). Jacquah Foundation offered free health checks including blood sugar, BMI and cholesterol checking.
Jacquah Foundation outcomes:
- 33 individuals
- 12 identified as high risk offered specific advice and GP referral
- Alafia service received 3 direct referrals as a result of the open day. This included one family that presented as homeless and in immediate crisis.
- We only support families solely from the Greater Reading area.
- The child with additional needs must be age between 0-25.
- We work with all minority families, including those from European, Asian, Afro-Caribbean communities, as well as mixed race children and people from the Travelling community.
Last year Alafia has had 16 new referrals from diverse ethnic backgrounds including new Polish, Bangladeshi, and Albanian families! We have helped them negotiate the often complicated health, social and educational landscape as carers of children with additional needs and disabilities.
How to get support from Alafia:
If you are living in the Reading area and have a child with additional need or disability and think you can benefit from our service please contact us: