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A little time - a big difference

Date: 07/03/2008           Category: Childrens Care

Pia Comber loves her son David dearly - but once a month she is glad to wave the cheeky 12-year-old goodbye when she drops him off for a day with his friend Lin Pilkington at her home in Snodland. Lin, one of Medway Council's Link Scheme carers, is equally happy to see David, who has been visiting her since he was just four years old. Youngsters of David's age are always a handful, and his epilepsy and severe learning delay means mum Pia has more than most to cope with, so the chance for a day off once a month means a great deal to her. The Link Scheme depends on volunteers like Lin welcoming a disabled child from a local family into their home for anything from a few hours a month to a whole weekend. In Lin's case, David chose her rather than the other way round. She explained: "I was David's key worker at Clocktower Pre-school in Snodland and for some reason he wouldn't let anyone else do anything for him. Ever since then he has come to see me every month to give his mum a break." Lin and her 15-year-old daughter Jade also both look forward to David's visits, which are arranged at a convenient time for both families. "We might go for a walk round the lakes or feed the ducks or we might just play games and watch television," said Lin. "We just do general family activities and enjoy David's company for the day. "It has given me real pleasure to see him grow up and develop over the years I have known him. David likes coming to see us, his mum gets a bit of time to herself for a change and we really enjoy having him here. It's great fun and very rewarding." For Pia the day offers a rare break from caring for David and a chance to spend quality time with 17-year-old daughter Anna. "We might go to the cinema, which is somewhere we couldn't take David, or otherwise spend time together. "Looking after David is a 24 hour a day job, seven days a week, and the Link Scheme means everything to me and my family," explained Pia, whose husband Jeff also appreciates the break that Lin's involvement gives the family. Medway's Link Scheme Coordinator Angela Boyle's view is clear. "I'd like to clone Lin," she said simply. While that is not a realistic option, Angela is instead hoping to encourage more people to follow Lin's example by signing up to the scheme and offering a few hours a month to help someone like Pia cope with a child with particular needs. "It's a simple scheme that involves a carer welcoming a child into their own home and giving them normal, family-style leisure and play opportunities with new friends while his or her own family has a short break from caring," she explained. "Carers are ordinary people who come from all ages and backgrounds. What they have in common is a genuine desire to help support a disabled child and his or her family. It takes a little patience and understanding but can be fun and tremendously rewarding." The council provides the support and training that carers need - in Lin's case she was trained to deal with David's epilepsy - but essentially the idea is for the family and the carer to work out when and how the link will work for them. Volunteers can claim back expenses, including mileage, but are not paid. Although Angela's appeal for more help ties in with national Share the Care Week 2008 from 9 to 16 March, the need is ongoing. Anyone who thinks they might be able to help, or who would like more information, can contact Angela on 01634 331605. Ends Please note - photographs of the families involved are available. Contact Malcolm Triggs, Medway Council Press Office, on 01634 332021.