Somerset children's charity facing unprecedented demand for services

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A Somerset charity which supports young people with developmental problems and disabilities says it is seeing unprecedented demand for its services.

Langport-based charity 'bibic' has been running for 50 years. Staff say it had to stop enquiries for a month because they were coming in faster than they could respond.

The charity had 900 enquiries within the whole year up until the end of September 2022, compared to 900 in the whole year of 2021.

The charity helps young people like Archie, who has a range of hidden challenges including autism, ADHD, sensory processing difficulties, auditory processing disorder and, because of all that, it is suspected he is suffering from chronic fatigue.

He said: "They've helped me find strategies for when I feel really tired or overstimulated and they've not only helped other people understand me, but me understand myself a bit more as well."

Archie's mum, Sanchia, said: "A lot of Archie's difficulties are hidden, so you can't see where he's struggling or why he's struggling.

"It's meant that it's been easier to explain to school what's going on and why he's struggling."

Judy is another parent whose children have been supported at the charity.

She said: "My youngest son is so anxious it's very difficult to get him to leave the house, let alone go to a new place and meet new people and they are so kind and welcoming and understood him so well.

"They actually managed to get him involved, engaged, confident and relaxed that he was himself during the assessment.

'bibic' has marked its 50th anniversary with a rebrand

The charity spends time with children assessing them - looking for gaps in development and hidden difficulties. They feed all that back to families and then work out ways of helping that they can take away.

Therapy manager Chelsey Oxley said: "The rest of the day is spent doing strategies. How can we support that child? How can we alleviate those stresses? How can we play on their strengths to help them thrive and fulfil their lives within the community and within schools?"

But as the charity marks its fiftieth anniversary with a rebrand, it faces one of the most challenging times in its history, as do all charities. Bibic’s boss says all it can do is try to make the situation work.

Managing Director, Pip Buckley, said: "I think it's going to be a very difficult time. I think there's going to be a massive impact on giving.

"But I also think we're preparing for it well - applying to grants and trusts for money that may support those who are most in need and I think also adapting to different styles of working.

"So if people, for example, can afford an assessment but they can't afford to travel here, could we go to them? Could we do a clinic? Could we do it digitally? And thinking about how we can meet the needs of those who need it most."