Charity Focus: Nansa takes on the increasing demand for supporting people with special educational needs and disabilities

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Nansa supports people and families across the county with special educational needs and disabilities. - Credit: Nansa

As part of our new drive to support local charities, each week we are highlighting the vital work they do and the difference they make to the lives of people across the local community.

This weekend Nansa (Norfolk and Norwich SEND Association) has informed us of the important work they do to support people and families of those with special educational needs and disabilities.

About Us

Nansa (Norfolk and Norwich SEND Association) has been taking on the challenge to meet growing demand for support for SEND people (special educational needs and disabilities) in the county. The charity has embarked on a number of innovative ventures, including a merger with another local charity; a new work experience project for adults with SEND; and hosting Norfolk’s first Neurodiversity Festival in October.

Nansa is no stranger to piloting new approaches to SEND support. In 1954 families of children with cerebral palsy in Norfolk had to travel to Cambridge to get help and advice for their children. Deciding to take matters into their own hands, parents set up a Norfolk support group and started fundraising to build a centre in Norwich. Their first event raised £53 (a fairy good sum for the 1950s) and they continued raising money in a variety of ways:

“Piles of pennies were a popular way of raising money. When we went to knock down piles of pennies in pubs, beer had been poured over to make them stick. There were 240 pennies in a £1, sometimes over £100 in a pile of sticky pennies had to be counted.” The late Mr Peter Blackburn, Nansa Founder.

Nansa Christine Fulcher

Christine Fulcher in the 1960s. - Credit: Nansa

Since its inception Nansa has been willing to try all sorts of innovative projects. In the 1960’s when work experience was almost impossible to find for people with SEND, Nansa set up Nansa Industries – producing bottle caps and cooker knobs at our Bowthorpe Road Centre. Subsequently Nansa diversified into signwriting and joinery. Nowadays there is no longer any industry at the Adults Centre and work opportunities are provided at other locations; although anyone visiting the Centre can still spot the large, red, Emergency Stop buttons that used to halt the machinery.

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Support for young people and adults

Today the Bowthorpe Road Centre offers a welcoming place for young people and adults to socialise, pursue interests and hobbies, meet with friends and access services. Nansa offers a variety of services which help people with SEND to acquire essential life skills; access education and training and employment as well as supporting them to make friends and connect with their community.


Last year, Nansa launched Kids’ Kiosk which is based at Wroxham Barns. This offers people with more profound learning disabilities the opportunity to have meaningful experience of work, both in our shop and working outside on the farm and with the animals.

“I would give 10 stars if I could, I love working with the coaches and they are always very supportive”. Kids’ Kiosk trainee

Nansa Kids Kiosk

Nansa's Kids Kiosk includes looking after the animals and working in the shop at Wroxham barns. - Credit: Nansa

Support for Families and children

Nansa’s Family Centre in Woodcock Road works with families of children with SEND, nurturing the children’s cognitive and physical development as well as helping parents to best care for their child through the All Aboard and School for Parents services.

“(I) had been told my daughter would never communicate, never sit independently and never walk, but with the help of Anna and the other amazing Nansa staff, my daughter has beaten all expectations…” mother of SEND child attending Nansa

Nansa’s Sleep service helps parents whose SEND children are experiencing difficulties sleeping. At a time when parents are desperate, Nansa’s Sleep practitioners offer a real lifeline.

“Many thanks for your e-mail full of information. I feel now that I am not alone anymore.” Parent accessing Sleep Service

Ofsted has in their 2022 report highlighted the need for more support for young people with SEND and their families in Norfolk and to help meet this need, Nansa has merged with SENsational Families. As the EDP reported in June 2021, SENSational Families was at risk of closure due to lack of funds, but the merger has meant that their invaluable outreach work in the community, supporting families of SEND children, can continue. A new weekly support group in Great Yarmouth has just started, with experienced Family Support Advisors on hand to help.

Jenny FSA at Great Yarmouth

Jenny, a Family Support Advisor at the Great Yarmouth SENSational Families group. - Credit: Nansa


“I got more help in thirty minutes than I have in four years (since my start of getting an ASD diagnosis for my son). I feel like a whole weight has been lifted and everyone there was amazing!” mother attending SENsational Families Great Yarmouth.

Do you want more information on any of our services? Please go to our website www.nansa.org.co.uk or contact enquiries@nansa.org.uk

Impact of COVID-19

During Covid, Nansa continued to support our service users by moving services online where possible; by delivering resources and visiting in person (a lot of chats from pavements and driveways), by training staff in infection control, understanding coronavirus and mental health support and sourcing and using PPE.  When we started to resume face to face service delivery Nansa put in place all possible measures to reduce risk of infection such as creating bubbles and sourcing extra equipment to avoid cross contamination. Although our income was reduced because our charity shops were shut, Nansa was successful in applying for grants and although we couldn’t hold any face to face fundraising events, Nansa did hold an online 24 hour Nansa-thon including an 80’s dance video featuring our Head Office staff, showing that we really will do almost anything for charity!

Nansa to hold Norfolk’s first Neurodiversity Festival

This autumn, Nansa will be hosting Norfolk’s first ever neurodiversity event ‘Making the Invisible – Visible’ at the Forum in Norwich on October 21-22. This event will bring SEND to the public attention, particularly ‘invisible’ conditions such as Asperger's, ADHD, Anxiety and Autism. Practitioners, academics, and people with lived experience of these conditions will be invited to attend and participate. There will be guest speakers and workshops, with many organisations having stands in the foyer as well as fun and creative elements to encourage families as well as professionals to attend. Nansa is looking for a corporate sponsor for this event, so if your business would like to be involved contact Blyth on 01603 414 109 or e-mail corporatefundraising@nansa.org.uk.

Nansa neurodiversity festival

Nansa is hosting Norfolk's first neurodiversity Festival in October - Credit: Nansa

Nansa is…a place, a haven, a gem, a safety net to a community who continue to feel abandoned by society and judged by others, whether the disability is of your own or of someone who you care for. Nansa and the people who work for it are the beating heart of the support given. We need a Nansa worldwide mind-set and to achieve this we need Nansa.” - Parent of Nansa service user

Nansa is always grateful for the support given by the community and local businesses, which allows us to continue our work improving the lives of those living with SEND in Norfolk. For more information on fundraising, corporate partnerships or legacies, contact Blyth or Sam at fundraising@nansa.org.uk or donate today by going to www.nansa.org.uk/fundraising and pressing the donate button at the top of the page.