Meet a local support group… Downs and Special Friends

Earlier this week the we visited a unique local support group in a small town in Yorkshire to hear more about their activities and their amazing growth in a very short space of time.

The Downs and Special Friends group (DNFS) are based in Batley, and have grown from just 10 families to over 150 members in little more than a year. The purpose of their group is to provide support and friendship to families where there is a member with a disability, at the same time as having FUN.

Lots of fun. The leaders are tireless, enthusiastic, infectious, passionate and very proactive.

The group fundraise for their events, and have already organised a number of different regular sessions, such as cycling sessions, dance groups, singing, swimming groups, art sessions, parties, more parties, even more parties and trips out. A huge variety of activity takes place, and everything is available to the entire family, not just the person with a disability; parents, siblings, cousins as well as friends get involved. The group cater for all ages, religions and nationalities. They support those with Down’s syndrome, autism, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy and other life-limiting conditions. They celebrate all religious festivals together, hence the sheer number of parties which have successfully helped to bring together the diverse cultures evident in the locality. Halloween and Christmas are up next.

Both group leaders spend time raising awareness in their local environment, breaking barriers by successful liaison with their community leaders, their churches and mosques, harnessing the power of the local business networks, working with their councillors, MP, challenging the local authority and NHS to better services and fighting for equal opportunities.

The group are highly visible in their local community, raising awareness of the existence of disability and the right to be part of everyday engagement.  They have developed a sense of community pride, attracting positive recognition and engaging in spontaneous friendly banter with the wider community. The group are particularly adept at drawing families together who would otherwise be fearful of exposing the presence of disability; they are sharing their strategies with us and are keen to help us support others.

Photos of the group and some of the members’ stories are featured as part of this BBC series.

Congratulations DNSF on your fabulous successes at raising awareness of disability and living life to the full!

Update – February 2018 – Jacky and Akhtar, co-chairs of DNSF, speak at a local event:

If you would like to find a local support group near you, click here to search here for an affiliated group near you.