Leeds Mencap

Hawthorn Family Support Centre

The project supports families with very young children (0-3years) with a learning disability. At the centre parents/carers have the chance to get advice from the trained staff, chat, or just relax whilst their child is cared for in the playroom. Parents also learn new ways to play with their child to help their future development. The centre aims to develop a network of support that the parents/carers can access in the coming years to help them cope with the pressures of having a child with a learning disability which will in turn improve their whole family’s quality of life.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (1091809)




  • Community Support & DevelopmentCommunity Support & Development
  • Education/Training/EmploymentEducation/Training/Employment
  • Health/WellbeingHealth/Wellbeing


  • Children (3-18)Children (3-18)
  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



This project tackles the issue of isolation and lack of support for parents and carers with a very young child (0-3 years) with a learning disability. We believe that early years support is absolutely vital for this group and we provide emotional support and help parents and carers to develop coping mechanisms for when their child moves to a children’s centre at 3 years old. It can be very hard for parents in this group to join a group of parents with children who don’t have a learning disability as other parents will often ignore the fact there is something different about their child. It can also be distressing to watch other children of the same age doing things that their child is unable to do. Parents often have to deal with a great deal of resentment that their child is not what they were expecting. This can be a very isolating time for parents and the Hawthorn Family Support Centre aims to extend an arm of friendship and support at this time. Parents often tell us, that before they came to the Hawthorn Centre they had no one to talk to about their child’s disability, let alone anyone who had been through a similar experience themselves. One of the most valuable parts of this project is the peer-to-peer support network that the parents establish. After they leave the Hawthorn centre, these contacts are a vital support network over the coming years and actually help the parents and families cope independently of any services provided by Leeds Mencap or the local authorities. The links they make in the Hawthorn centre with other parents will give them someone to talk to, who has similar experiences, when their child might be the only child with learning disabilities within the children’s centre or school. 8 out of 10 families caring for children or adults with profound or multiple learning disabilities have reached ‘breaking point’. The centre provides much needed respite to carers for one day a week – which really can be a lifeline. They can relax and chat whilst their child is cared for by trained professionals in our playroom. Siblings are also welcome in the playroom so that the carer can have a proper break. Although this centre helps parents to cope and gives them a support network of other parents that they can draw on, it also shows parents how to play with their child. Often parents of children with a learning disability will believe that they just need to get through the day. The Hawthorn centre shows parents new ways to play with their child to bring the fun and joy back of having a young child in their life. The period between pregnancy and 3 years is increasingly seen as a critical period in shaping children’s life chances, based on evidence of brain formation, communication and language development. It is therefore critical to intervene here to create better outcomes for the child. The Hawthorn Centre provides this early support to give these children better opportunities in their future life. Financial Breakdown: Item Cost Craft Materials £350.00 Food Purchases £1,200.00 Seasonal Gifts for Children £200.00 Membership Fees (Ofsted) £255.00 Transport for Families £2,200.00 Stationery £436.00 Printing Costs £450.00 Staff Costs £86,836.22 Sub Total £91,927.22 8% Management Fee £7,354.18 Total £99,281.40