Charity lends a helping hand to Leeds families

A group from Aireborough Supported Activities Scheme enjoying one of its many outings.
A group from Aireborough Supported Activities Scheme enjoying one of its many outings.

A Leeds charity which helps children with additional needs and their families is gearing up for an action-packed summer.

Aireborough Supported Activities Scheme (ASAS) provides runs a series of playschemes and residential short breaks for children with learning and or physical disabilities.

Playscheme activities include cooking, music and movement, drama, entertainers, animals visit and various trips.

Playscheme activities include cooking, music and movement, drama, entertainers, animals visit and various trips.

The charity helps around 150 families a year and has been going for more than 30 years. They do an rich mix of activities ranging from climbing, community farm visits, hydrotherapy and cinema trips.

Its chairperson Chris Parapia, a former social worker whose expertise was helping disabled people, was instrumental in the founding of the scheme in Aireborough.

She said: “As a social worker I used to get calls from parents saying ‘What Am I going to do? There is nothing for my child to do over the holidays. I don’t think I will be able to cope.”

The answer was Aireborough Summer Activities Scheme, which evolved into ASAS. Initially it just did playschemes over the summer but it expanded over the holidays of the school year. And in 2003 it started offering residential short breaks.

ACTIVITIES: Playscheme activities include cooking, music and movement, drama, entertainers, animals visit and various trips.

ACTIVITIES: Playscheme activities include cooking, music and movement, drama, entertainers, animals visit and various trips.

Chris said: “We like to call the playscheme an activities scheme because we want to be more than a playscheme. We want to expand their horizons, we want to help them make friends. Playscheme makes it sound like it’s for small children, whereas we go from five-years-old right up to the age of 19. Seeing the kids enjoy themselves is what it is all about.”

As well as entertaining the children, the activities also provide much needed respite for their families and carers.

During the recent Spring Bank Holiday ASAS helped around 50 children enjoy a mix of activity days and residential short breaks.

One parent wrote to ASAS to tell them how much the break meant to them.

FARM: A youngster pets a farmyard animal on an organised trip.

FARM: A youngster pets a farmyard animal on an organised trip.

The parent said “It was great having some real peace and quiet and not having to get up at any point during the night or in the early morning.

“I was able to get some real rest. I was able to visit my friends and have a good chat without being interrupted. I was able to go out to the cinema in the evening without having to arrange childcare which is very difficult because of my son’s needs.”

ASAS project manager Jo Galasso said such breaks allowed parents to “recharge their batteries”. She added: “It also gives them (parents) quality time with the brothers and sisters of the child with a disability who often miss out.

“Parents can also do things in the home - some just want to sleep or do things as a couple they can’t normally do, like going for a meal out or to the cinema.”

This summer ASAS is running its playscheme from July 25 to August 9. It is also organising a four-day residential short break during August.

It costs around £150,000 for ASAS to run its services per year. It gets some funding from Leeds City Council but the registered charity relies heavily on the good will of the general public to support its activities. People can also help boost it by using online platforms like Easy Fundraising and Amazon Smile which donates to your chosen charity every time you shop.

ASAS also has a loyal staff of 30 people and a band of volunteers who help deliver its vital services. Some like Liam Sanders multi-task as nurse, IT wizard and climbing instructor to help the charity. Anyone who wants to become a volunteer or help with fundraising should ring 0113 460 3206.

FACTFILE:

Aireborough Supported Activities Scheme runs holiday play scheme activities, days and residential short breaks for children with additional needs in Leeds.

Its playscheme is usually based at Green Meadows School in Guiseley. These are for children and young people aged five to 18 in the Aireborough area.

Playscheme activities include swimming/hydrotherapy, trampolining/rebound therapy, arts and crafts. There are also trips to the cinema, bowling, climbing, sailing, to parks, play centres and farms.

The scheme began in 1988 when it was known as Aireborough Summer Activities Scheme but its services have since expanded.

It started running residential activity breaks in 2003.

Residential short breaks are open to all children with additional needs in Leeds who don’t get overnight respite care. These are held at a variety of venues, like Lineham Farm near Eccup, Herd Farm near Harewood House and Low Mill at Askrigg.

It costs £15 a day for playscheme and £90 per day for a residential but these prices are negotiable as the charity doesn’t want families to miss out because of financial constraints.

The 2019 Summer play scheme will run from July 25 to August 9. There is also a four-day residential at Lineham Farm from August 11 to 15. For more information see www.aireborough-scheme.co.uk.