Whizz-Kidz is a charity that provides services (such as training, camps and opportunities to meet other young people) and mobility equipment to disabled young people and children.
Since 1990, the charity has supported 18,000 young people and children who use wheelchairs, from 4 to 25 years old. The staff have expert knowledge, allowing them to support young disabled people in an individualised, holistic way.
Whizz-Kidz works alongside the NHS on wheelchair provision, aiming to ensure every young person has the most appropriate wheelchair, at the lowest cost, in order to improve their personal independence and allow them to enjoy life at school and within their community.
Whizz-Kidz service user satisfaction’ is around 97% due to its dynamic expertise and innovative approach. In terms of service provision, Whizz-Kidz include clubs, wheelchair skills training, camps, work experiences and work skills days. Clubs meet all year round, across the UK (divided into South, North, Scotland and Wales) and include ice skating, animation, sports and cooking activities, among many others.
Wheelchair skills training is delivered either on an individual basis or as a group. The themes of wheelchair skills training are manoeuvring and handling the wheelchair, sports, accessing public transport and other community locations, and transitions to school/college/university/employment.
Some of the wheelchair skills trainers were previously Whizz-Kidz young service users who attended wheelchair skills training sessions. It is very much a personal training from people who understand the challenges and solutions.
Camps have included visits to the Lake District, Wales and Scotland. Work experiences usually last 1 or 2 weeks, although we encourage employers to consider various options. Before a work experience, an accessibility risk assessment is conducted, to ensure that the young people can have appropriate access to the work spaces and facilities. Work experience providers have included major names such as Tesco, FTI Consulting, EY, Jardine Motors, BT and Barclays, as well as many others.
During work skills days, disabled young people receive support from industry experts (including staff from Jardine Motors, Lloyds bank and Admiral) as well as specially trained Whizz-Kidz staff. Work skills focused on during the sessions include: self-branding, application writing, job searching, interview skills and goal planning.
Different young service users have different conditions. This means that each young person’s needs vary in complexity. Staff at Whizz-Kidz manage that extremely well and ensure that all young service users have a voice, can participate in services and also get the correct equipment.
My role at Whizz-Kidz is Data, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. I work on projects about monitoring and evaluation, as the title implies! I collect data or organise data collection from the different services in order to find out what young people and their families think about the services provided. I then analyse this data using statistical methods, create graphs, infographics and lay reports and summaries.
Data is collected for the both internal evaluation of services as well as external evaluation for our funders, such as Big Lottery, Co-Op, City Bridges Trust and many others. Data collection and analysis allows us to provide evidence of the effectiveness of our services.
I am passionate about this because I think that all interventions (such as wheelchair provision and services at Whizz-Kidz) should be evidence-based as that can help us to understand the mechanisms behind the changes and to show improvements in outcomes.
The reason why services and wheelchair provision is important for disabled young people can be shown through research. For instance, it was found that young people (aged 16 to 24) with disabilities felt twice as lonely as young people reporting no disabilities. In order to combat the loneliness experienced by disabled young people, Whizz-Kidz runs a range of activities where different service users can meet.
Another reason why disabled young people need support from charities such as Whizz-Kidz is the effect that being disabled has on well-being. According to The Good Childhood 2018 report, children (aged 14 years old) who have a physical or mental long-term illness had lower well-being than those without a long-term illness. Another key aim of the work of Whizz-Kidz is to support well-being through introducing young people to sport, by providing an opportunity to engage with others and be more independent as well as by appropriate wheelchair provision and wheelchair skills training.
Lack of independence is a further issue for disabled children and young people. It was shown that disabled children and young people (10 to 15 years old) were more likely to be lonely if they were not happy about their lack of choices. Whizz-Kidz aims to empower young service users to make their own decisions by providing them with work skills training, wheelchair training and by giving them a voice (such as promoting opportunities for young service users to join Kidz Board, which is a youth-led group for Whizz-Kidz).
Disabled people, like most others, simply want the opportunity to work in the future and contribute positively to society.
It has been shown that young people were campaigning and volunteering through clubs and organisation about homelessness, the environment, helping younger children with literacy skills, peer education projects, about disability awareness, and fundraising for charities.
However, in a study where young people with disabilities were followed over 10 years, it was shown that disabled people aged 25 to 30 years old were less likely than the general population to have worked in paid employment.
In fact, most of the sample had never had a job since leaving school. The barriers for obtaining employment for disabled young people are: lack of practical provision for disabled people within the workplace, low expectations from family, lack of knowledge of career choices and training provision, and lack of self-advocacy skills. These barriers result in less disabled people being in employment in adulthood. In 2019, 52.6% of people with disabilities were in employment, compared to 81.5% of people without disabilities.
In order to promote independence, confidence, future planning and also for young people to gain understanding and knowledge of the workplace, Whizz-Kidz provides work skills days and helps to arrange work experiences. Also, for every work experience placement, Whizz-Kidz staff conduct assessments of the risk and accessibility of the workplace to ensure that it is appropriate for a wheelchair user’s needs.
Whizz-Kidz supports young people in terms of combating loneliness, increasing independence, promoting well-being, as well as gaining employment and skills related to their future. The need for improving the above mentioned factors is based on research evidence. Evidence shows that
Whizz-Kidz work has an important role on the lives of disabled young people and I am proud to work here.
Dr Elizabeth Kaplunov is a researcher who evaluate s projects about health technology for disabled and vulnerable people with a focus on gaining insight into processes, usage, feasibility and outcomes analysis.