Leeds support group spreads its wings over West Yorkshire

LAUNCH: Chris Eatwell, chair of CANN and SNAPS (Special Needs and Parent Support) with community fundraising manager Eve Holdsworth.
LAUNCH: Chris Eatwell, chair of CANN and SNAPS (Special Needs and Parent Support) with community fundraising manager Eve Holdsworth.

A city group which supports children with additional needs is reaching out across the region.

LEEDS CANN (Children with Additional Needs Network) will now be known as West Yorkshire CANN.

CAKE: Chairman Chris Eatwell cuts into a cake to celebrate the launch of West Yorkshire CANN( children with additional needs).

CAKE: Chairman Chris Eatwell cuts into a cake to celebrate the launch of West Yorkshire CANN( children with additional needs).

The Leeds group was set up three years ago to help members share best practice, resources, ideas and opportunities. This was done to improve access to information, training and support for families and carers.

The CANN network came about through the efforts of various people like Sarah Coles, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at Irwin Mitchell and Chris Eatwell, chairman of both CANN and SNAPS (Special Needs and Parent Support) Karen Hoe, who was awarded the OBE last year for services to children with special educational needs and disabilities, and Laura McDonald, of Cerebra, which supports children with brain conditions were also heavily involved.

Leeds CANN has been so successful that its reach will now be expanded across the West Yorkshire area.

Sarah Coles said: “The network has grown significantly in the past few years and we are now in a position where we are supporting people across the wider region rather than just Leeds.

LAWYER: Irwin Mitchell solicitor Sarah Coles has helped the CANN network since its inception.

LAWYER: Irwin Mitchell solicitor Sarah Coles has helped the CANN network since its inception.

“Everyone has bought into the idea of working together to achieve our goals whether that is public or private sector alongside the charities involved – the focus is purely on the children and parents who need support. We are all delighted to see it grow and help more and more organisations work effectively and support more families.”

The new West Yorkshire group will act as an umbrella brand for 40 organisations across Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.

West Yorkshire CANN (WY CANN) is formed of third sector, voluntary community and statutory organisations who work with families and carers with children and young people with additional needs.

The group is supported heavily by contributions from the charity SNAPS, EPIC Leeds, the parents and carers group, and law firm Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office.

SUPPORT: City councillor Jonathan Pryor has praised the 'great work' of Leeds CANN.

SUPPORT: City councillor Jonathan Pryor has praised the 'great work' of Leeds CANN.

A launch and information event for WY CANN took place at the St George’s Centre in Leeds late last month. It featured 25 stands and more than 100 service users attended the event, which was run by EPIC.

Sarah added: “It was a great day, and our main focus now is to continue raising more awareness and collaborating with services across the wider region. In addition, we are rebranding our Facebook page as more and more people are accessing it.

“Our aim is to ensure that people have the best access possible and create more traffic through our social media, in turn providing services to more users as well as the possibility of hosting more events.”

Coun Jonathan Pryor, executive member for learning, skills and employment at Leeds City Council, praised Leeds CANN and welcomed its expansion.

He said: “This is an incredibly exciting development for the region. Leeds CANN has done so much great work in helping organisations who support parents and carers in the city. With this expansion to West Yorkshire it can now increase the reach and link up with many organisations across the whole region to ensure we share best practice and improve services on a much wider scale.”

Leeds CANN was formed three years ago.

The CANN part stands for Children with Additional Needs Network.

Leeds CANN was formed of third sector, voluntary community and statutory organisations working with families and carers with children and young people with additional needs.

It was established so that member organisations could share best practice, resources, ideas and opportunities. This was done in order to improve access to information, training and support for families and carers.

Its initial aims were to create a closed Facebook page solely for access by member organisations. The idea was to create a platform for sharing of information, ideas and opportunities for joint working.

Another aim was to create a Leeds CANN website to act as a single entry point to access a wide range of information and ideas relevant to families of children with additional needs.

The website was also set up to create a gateway to the websites of all member organisations.

Leeds CANN also shares opportunities for single and joint events and activities, including information and training sessions.

The group became known as West Yorkshire CANN last month at a launch event in Leeds. It will now incorporate organisations from other towns and cities in the region and draw on their expertise.

SOURCE: leedscann.org.