Spotlight on local charity, Contact

Published on Apr 19, 2021

Each month, we catch up with one of the fantastic businesses or organisations that make the Old Street District the vibrant and exciting place that we all know and love. This month, we’re chatting to Sophie, Philanthropy Executive at charity Contact, based on City Road.

Can you tell us a little about your role at Contact?

I’m Sophie, and I support businesses across London and the UK with their charity and inclusion needs. Whether creating exciting Charity of the Year partnerships, supporting fundraising and volunteer initiatives, or introducing our services to your networks, Contact’s work can engage families with disabled children and allies alike. We can also provide in-house training or workshops to your colleagues.

What exactly does Contact do? What is its mission?

Every day 100 children in the UK are born or diagnosed with a disability. This is something no parent prepares for and it can be overwhelming. Parents are often left alone to navigate this complex new world filled with emotional and practical challenges.

As a result, many spiral into crisis. Families with disabled children are more likely to be living in poverty. Parent carers are exhausted, stressed, lonely, and more likely to be suffering from ill-health (mental and physical). It doesn’t have to be this way.

Contact is the UK charity for families with disabled children.

We provide advice, information and support to all families of children with additional needs. This includes life-limiting medical conditions, neurodiversity, physical and learning disabilities. Whatever their child’s condition (diagnosed or not) we are here for them.

Our vision is that families with disabled children feel valued and are strong, confident and able to make the decisions that are right for them.
We support families with the best possible guidance and information. We bring families together to support each other. And we help families to campaign, volunteer and fundraise to improve life for themselves and others.

By doing this, we can help families to take control of their situation. We can ensure many more families can focus on what’s most important – being together and growing together as a family.

Who uses Contact’s support and resources?

Our families come from all parts of the UK and all sections of society. Disability has no boundaries. You will likely have colleagues, customers and clients whose children have additional needs (even if you don’t know it!).

In the UK there are 620,000 families with a disabled child or children. Last year we helped 178,000 parent carers with information, advice and support.. We also support the 88,000 members of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and have administered grants to support groups, as well as rare conditions groups.

How long has the charity been in existence? How did it start?

Contact began over 40 years ago in London. We were set up by parents of disabled children who recognised that, even though their children’s conditions were different, they shared a common experience – of being a family with a disabled child. They understood how important it is to support each other.

A lot has changed since then – we now work nationwide and we have various centres across London – but some things haven’t changed nearly enough. There is a desperate lack of services and support for the 620,000 parents in the UK who care for a disabled child, and our research shows that a staggering 69% of families with disabled children never receive support beyond their close friends or family.

Our business communities play a huge part in helping us reach more families earlier in their journeys. HR departments can signpost colleagues to our services, and we can show support to such families through fundraising, campaigning and volunteering. We delight in championing this commitment together and building engaging partnerships with you. Please get in touch with to find out more.

How do you think the pandemic (and the consequent lockdown) has affected the community you serve?

Families with disabled children are finding the Covid-19 crisis especially tough. To give you a picture, this is how one parent described their experience:

“There is absolutely no break from caring. It’s really, really intense and overwhelming. You’re just left to it. It isn’t just home-schooling – it’s living, breathing, physio, communication, lifting, feeding, stimulating, interaction, trying to keep yourself sane, home-school another child. The list is non-stop and endless.”

Parents are exhausted and many feel abandoned. 76% of families lost all support during the lockdowns. The health (physical and mental) of disabled children, their siblings and parents is much worse and children are missing out on vital therapies. The impact is long-term and they will need support into the future.

Crucially, as most of us emerge from lockdown and have hope for the future, many of our families remain isolated. 61,800 children are on the official shielding list because Covid-19 would be so dangerous for them. We have families who haven’t left home in over a year in order to protect their child. Which is why Contact is calling on the government to set out plans to develop and roll out a vaccine for high-risk children, who have been left shielding and unable to return to school. Their families want and need information. You can find out more about our campaigns and research here.

How did you operate prior to the pandemic, and what has had to change as a result of the current situation?

Like everyone, we went virtual! Our Helpline team went overnight from working in the office to working from home, and carried on with no loss of service. Our face-to-face support went online.

Hugely importantly, our leadership decided to lean-in to the crisis. We know families with disabled children were really suffering, and we didn’t want to look back and wish we had done more.

So, despite the financial uncertainty, we actually increased support. Wonderfully, our funders and partners came with us. With their help, we provided free supermarket vouchers, tablet computers and sensory products to low-income families. We also launched a new ‘Listening Ear’ telephone service providing greater emotional support to parents (as well as practical advice).

Digital transformation underpinned our strategy ahead of the pandemic. The past year has catalysed our work to reach more families and more families sooner in their journey.

Have there been any new ways of working that you think will stay in place in future?

Our new services have been really successful and it’s been great to see many more parents able to join in, as we’ve grown our online community. Demand however remains high as support is desperately needed. With the help of business communities and funders, we can keep these services going. Our families remain at the centre of everything we do, and the past year has made us even more determined to keep campaigning and co-designing our services with families.

How can a local resident or employee contribute to the amazing work that Contact does?

The one phrase we perhaps hear most often is ‘I wish I’d found you sooner’. So please, spread the word about Contact – both for families who need us, and for ways to keep our services going.

You can help us reach more families by supporting us directly or via your business/workplace. You can share our stories or join our campaigns. You can also play Contact’s new weekly lottery for a chance to win £10,000 while funding our work.

We’re here to support you so check out our pages here Support us | Contact, or get in touch with to find out more. Thank you!

How has OSDP worked with you?

By signposting our services to local people and businesses, whether to support them as individuals or create charity partnerships and support fundraising, OSDP helps us transform the lives of more families with disabled children.

We’re new to OSDP and very excited to be connected to all the fabulous organisations here.

Describe Old Street and the surrounding area in 3 words

Vibrant, creative, collaborative.