Northern Ireland Health Minister Simon Hamilton today announced that the Department of Health will provide £1.57 million to Family Fund in 2016/17 to support families raising disabled or seriously ill children across Northern Ireland.

Last year (2014/15), Family Fund supported 4,015 families across Northern Ireland and we expect to support a similar number this year.

Minister Hamilton said “I am delighted to announce that my Department has been able to provide this significant amount of funding to the Family Fund. It will alleviate concerns and reassure local families of my Department’s continuing commitment to supporting those who are raising disabled and seriously ill children.”

Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive of Family Fund, said “We are grateful to the Department for their ongoing support for families. It can be a struggle financially, emotionally and physically for families raising a disabled or seriously ill child, and these grants help break down many of the barriers families face, improving their quality of life and easing the additional daily pressures. We will do our best to ensure that we reach as many families as possible with this funding in the coming financial year.”

Natasha’s Story

One girl who was supported by Family Fund is Natasha. Natasha has Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which means she has a variety of complex needs. These include communication difficulties and she has a severe visual impairment. The family live in Newtownards and applied to Family Fund for the first time last year.

Mum Natalie said “I heard about Family Fund whilst Natasha was in intensive care. The hospital provided us with a list of charities to help with items for Natasha’s sensory room. When we received the grant we contacted Learning SPACE to help with a light spreader which fills the whole room with soft light. Every piece of sensory equipment in the room is now interlinked through the Iris system, which is controlled by a dice that Natasha rolls to change the colour of the lights or the music in the room.”

“When she is feeling unwell and becomes agitated we will take her into her sensory room and if she doesn’t calm down then we know instantly there is something seriously wrong with her, so it’s actually helped us to understand Natasha better. It gives me a little bit of free time too as we have placed monitors in there so I can get on with housework and know she is safe.”

“For me, the best thing is to see her in there with her little brother Ruben. He is so protective over Natasha but they will go in and dance around together with the music and all the lights on, it’s just great.”

Families in Northern Ireland interested in applying can find out more on our 'How To Apply' page.