Special needs charity hailed as a ‘fantastic example’ by MP

Award winners at the About with Friends annual meeting. Picture: SUBMITTED

Award winners at the About with Friends annual meeting. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

It was a time to reflect on past achievements and anticipate exciting times ahead.

About with Friends has been giving children and young people with learning difficulties the chance to live the life they choose for 14 years.

The last 12 months provided plenty more to celebrate at the Cromer based charity's annual meeting and awards.

The enthusiasm was contagious as members, families, volunteers and supporters gathered for the occasion.

North Walsham Community Centre was packed to the rafters on a night full of hope and inspiration.

Chief executive officer and founder Helen Dalton-Hare said: 'It has been a long journey and I would like to thank all the members who had a vision to create the services they wanted.

'It is fantastic that so many members and families come out to support us and I enjoy seeing what they are up to and hearing their news. They are living the life they chose and we listen to families and carers and try to support them too.'

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Last year's highlights included opening a community shop in Cromer, setting up a new allotment at West Runton and gaining registered status with the Care Quality Commission.

The number of workskills service days rose from 5,000 in 2014/15 to 6,078 last year.

The team were awarded a contract to provide 100 beach huts to the Cromer Crab and Lobster Festival and 50 bird and bat-boxes to the Museum of the Broads at Stalham.

Deputy chief executive Emily Lown said the introduction of personal budgets for people with special needs would be one of the challenges in the months ahead.

Special guest North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb was full of praise for the work of the charity.

'I have so much admiration for the staff and volunteers, they see the potential in everybody,' he said. 'As a care minister it got so frustrating how people with learning difficulties were treated by the NHS and social services. Organisations like this are a fantastic example of how people with special needs should be treated. I am so grateful for the fantastic work you do.'

Awards were presented to the following recipients: Youth Booster Award for youth member of the year - Nathan Bullen

Dorothy Sanders Award for workskills member of the year - Josh Harrison

Pat Weddup Award for catering member of the year – Keara Dougan

Screwfix Award for cafe member of the year - Cathy Savory

Sam Taylor Award for adult member of the year - Michael Kenny