Helping HAND gets Ian a set of wheels

Cheeky Ian Clark finally got the wheelchair the NHS said would take a year to deliver yesterday - thanks to a helping HAND. It means six-year-old Ian, who has Downs syndrome, can return to school in Sheringham on Monday instead of facing 12 months waiting to be assessed for a chair because of Norfolk PCT shortages.

Cheeky Ian Clark finally got the wheelchair the NHS said would take a year to deliver yesterday - thanks to a helping HAND.

It means six-year-old Ian, who has Downs syndrome, can return to school in Sheringham on Monday instead of facing 12 months waiting to be assessed for a chair because of Norfolk PCT shortages.

The wheelie special moment came as Ian and his dad, also called Ian, from North Walsham, visited the Norwich-based charity Help and Advice for Norfolk Disabled (HAND) yesterday where officials cut through the red tape to fit out the youngster with his own chair, which he was able to take home with him.

HAND waived its fees and organ-ised an assessment after reading about Ian's plight in the EDP.

Dad Ian said: "It has been a fantastic public response and hopefully everything is going to be OK when it comes to Monday. We have got him mobile and on to the bus, which is the main thing.

"It is just a shame you have to shout and scream because of the NHS in Norfolk and it is a shame more people do not."

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The charity's response was all the more remarkable after it suffered a break-in at its Roundtree Way headquarters overnight, with more than £1000 stolen.

Gary Gilden, who runs HAND, said he was delighted to have helped Ian, but was gutted about the break-in.

He added: "They turned over the desk and stole cash but left cheques and invoices.

"It has come at a bad time, we have just moved into bigger premises and we have been overwhelmed by people wanting wheelchairs servicing. We have to raise £90,000 to £100,000 a year to keep running and we do not get any statutory help.

"I just feel we are propping up an ailing health service. I have no doubt that they are doing the best they can within their limited budget."

Mr Gilden said taking some of the red tape out of the service would help it no end.

The wheelchair would usually cost about £500, but HAND normally provides them for about £170. They also rent wheelchairs for £10 a week and the money raised goes into buying more wheelchairs.

They also employ people with disabilities and say recycling used wheelchairs helps the environment.

The charity was just one of many organisations and individual readers who rang or emailed the EDP offering help to make sure Ian's potential was fulfilled despite the PCT rebuff.

The authority has said it has 600 people waiting on average a year to be assessed for a wheelchair in Norfolk and told Ian his only options were to wait, complain or buy his own.

Suffolk Primary Care Trust said it had no waiting list of any note and that it took an average of two months to get an assessment and wheelchair.

Another charity which helps with wheelchairs is www.whizzkidz. org.uk

Anyone wanting to make a donation to HAND can call 01603 415999.

Anyone with any information about the break-in should contact Norfolk police on 0485 456 4567.