HAVING a child with a disability can be tiring, but one woman is stepping in to help.
Judi Gibbons, a mother of two grown-up children, has been looking after children with complex medical needs for 12 years.
Her role gives respite to families from their full-time caring role and she’s made a video to highlight her experience to encourage other families to follow suit.
Judi welcomes children into her Huddersfield home for a couple of nights, a weekend or a week or two during the school holidays.
Judi, 54, explained: “I used to be a nursery nurse for children with special needs so I already had a lot of experience in this field.
“Caring for a child with a physical disability can be hard work and you need plenty of training, but I didn’t see this as a barrier.
“The rewards make it all worth while – it’s an amazing feeling to see a child smile and know that you have made a difference.
“It really is the best job in the world.”
Judi qualified as a professional respite carer in 1999 and has the skills to work with children with complex medical needs – she administers medication and helps with washing.
But while her job is to provide care for the young people – she gets involved in the fun side too. She takes the young people she cares for swimming, visits the local park and other attractions.
“I wanted to give something back to society,” Judi added. “So after talking it through with my family I decided to give it a go.
“As soon as we got involved we knew we’d made the right decision.
“My husband, Frank, helps out with the cooking and cleaning and when our own children were living at home they’d also lend a hand. Since then we haven’t looked back.”
She now looks after four children on a regular basis – one child has been with them for 10 years and many stay until they reach the age of 18.
“While they are here they really do feel like they are part of the family,” she added. “If you want to help a child in need then becoming a short break carer could be the perfect role for you.
“Knowing you have helped a child make new friends, learn new skills and develop as a person and given their own families a well earned break makes it all worthwhile.”
And her community spirit to helping others has had great benefits to Kate Seabridge and her family.
Kate, 40, is a single mum-of-five and her disabled son Archie, 11, stays with Judi for three days a month.
Kate who lives just outside Holmfirth said: “Due to the severity of Archie’s disability he is 100% care dependent, which means you have to provide around the clock care.
“Allowing him to visit Judi means I can spend quality time with the rest of the family and get a good night’s sleep.
“There are certain activities we can’t do when Archie’s about, so being able to go on bike rides or take long walks means you can do things that make you feel like a normal family.
See Page 2 for Judi telling her story in a Kirklees Council video.
“More importantly it’s reassuring to know that Archie really benefits from the time he spends with Judi. She makes sure they go out and do fun things together and sticks to his strict routine, which is really important when you’re caring for a child with complex medical needs.
“Judi is an amazing person. She is kind, incredibly efficient and I trust her implicitly.
“The service is a real lifeline for families who have a child with a disability – without it I know I’d struggle to cope.”
THERE is a desperate need for respite carers for children with disabilities in Kirklees.
Both Judi and Kate have made the video to highlight what is involved and the benefits each brings to the other’s life.
The pattern and length of the stay is determined by the child’s and family’s needs and what the carer can offer. Judi only looks after one child at a time and can fit it in with her own personal circumstances.
John Heron, carer recruitment manager at Kirklees Council, said: “Short break care really is an invaluable service for disabled children and their parents – there are many families out there who require this sort of support.
“Caring for a child 24 hours a day, seven days a week can be extremely challenging. It’s important that they are given the opportunity to recharge their batteries, catch up on lost sleep and spend time with other children.
“People from all backgrounds can be short break carers, you do not need any previous experience – as long as you are willing to learn and participate in training anyone can do it.”
Applying to become a short break carer can take up to four months and follows the same process as foster carers – the difference is that the children have a disability and still live at home.
There is an informal information evening about fostering and short break care at Huddersfield Town Hall on Tuesday, July 19 between 5pm and 8pm. For more information call 0800 389 0086 or visit: www.kirklees.gov.uk/shortbreak