• Our mission is to make families with disabled children feel valued and experience the best quality of life possible
    Friends and Families of Special Children - Mobile Slide One

    We continue to provide support during COVID-19 Find out more

Meet the Team

Friends and Families employ 10 members of permanent staff who between them have a wealth of experience and knowledge of Disability and the carer service.

Gill Parker

Project Manager

I was born and brought up in Plymouth and am married with 3 children, the eldest of which has Cerebral Palsy. I have been involved with a number of disability groups on a volunteer basis and was an active member of Friends and Families prior to becoming an employee in 2011. I am passionate about enriching the lives of families with disabled children.

Reception

Suzy Goode

Office Administrator

I grew up in Cornwall and have lived in Plymouth for many years with my husband and two boys.  I originally worked as a Legal Executive specialising in family law, and have worked as a Teaching Assistant in a British School in Italy, where our family lived for 2 years.  I have also worked as Clerk to the Trustees and Company Secretary to a Plymouth Multi Academy Trust.

I work in the office supporting the Team in their great work.

Laura Grady

Administration Assistant

I was born in Plymouth and aside from living in Swansea for 6 years, where I went to University, I have lived here all my life and love raising my 2 young children so close to the moors and the sea.

I have a Law degree and a background in Social Care, Health and Wellbeing. My previous roles have given me a wealth of experience in enabling and supporting others in various ways and I enjoy working alongside the wonderful team at Friends and Families.

Information and Advice Team

Nicky Harris

Information and Advice Team Leader

I was born and have lived in Plymouth all my life.  I live with my partner Rob and our 2 dogs Hattie and Enzo.  I have a grown-up son, daughter and a beautiful grand-daughter.

I have worked in various family support roles and through fostering have cared for children of all ages with varying additional needs. I joined Friends and Families in December 2017 and during this time have established and developed the Parent Support Service including starting the Parent Drop In Support Group.  

In my role I am always looking for ways to develop and evolve the Family Disability Information and Advice Service, working together with parents/carers to offer meaningful and targeted training opportunities.

Jo Hocking

Family Support Worker

I was born and grew up in Plymouth. I have also lived in Salisbury and Germany due to Military commitments. I have a daughter who is at University and a Jack Russell called Scrumpy.

I have worked in a Family Support role for over ten years, working closely with Families and Children with SEND within a Primary School setting before joining Friends and Families.

I am passionate that all children and young people are able to achieve their potential in their early years, at school, college at home and lead happy and fulfilled lives.

Activity Team

Heidi Lee

Project and Activities Team Leader 

I have grown up in the Plymouth area and love being outdoors enjoying the moors and our beautiful coast.  I have two grown-up children and a dog called Freddie. 

I have worked in education for many years in various roles with the most recent as a Learning Mentor working with children and families providing support.

Hazel Bowyer

Support and Activity Worker

I was born in Plymouth and after moving a couple of times, came back to Plymouth and love living by the sea.  I have a background in youth charities; community engagement, events and programme coordination.

I joined Friends and Families in June 2019 and enjoy being involved with all of the amazing services and meeting families and also promoting the charity to different services.

Jess Butland

Making Sense Project Co-ordinator

I was brought up in Wembury near Plymouth and have recently moved back there with my partner Sean, daughter Grace and lurcher Talen. My daughter Grace has Polymicrogyria, a brain malformation resulting in Cerebral Palsy, developmental delay and Epilepsy.

I worked in the Civil Service for 12 years prior to working for Friends and Families.  I enjoy sourcing new equipment and toys for the Lending Library as well as planning new exciting activities for the Making Sense group.

Fundraising Team

Ally Colton

Corporate Partnership Fundraiser

I was born in Plymouth and have been working in the charity sector for over 20 years.  Between us my partner and I have six lovely children and two gorgeous grandchildren – we’re hoping for many more! 

I am the Corporate Partnership Fundraiser working with local businesses to encourage them to support us – this can be by fundraising for us, by providing raffle and auctions prizes or by helping to raise awareness of the work we do.  Please ask your work place to consider Friends and Families as their charity of the year.

Diane Flynn

Community Fundraiser

I was born in Somerset and went to Plymouth University, studying a degree in Social Policy.  I then moved to London working in various charity roles.  I returned to Plymouth five years ago this time with my husband, Mike and two boys, Noah and Rafferty in tow. 

I am the Community Fundraiser at Friends and Families, so if you fancy holding a coffee morning,  having me talk at your group, running for us or rattling a collection pot then do get in touch – there are lots of ways you can get involved.

Sessional Activity Workers

Pete Abraham

I am a primary school teacher in Plymouth with a passion for rugby.  I enjoy working with and supporting young people.  I have recently become a father to a beautiful baby girl.

Carol Evans

My full-time job is working with children with additional needs in an educational setting.  I enjoy supporting both children and young carers on all our different activities.

Jacob Goode

I began working for Friends & Families in April 2019 and since then have been working regularly with the Fun & Freedom Club.  I really enjoy all outdoor activities, particularly mountain biking and skiing.  I often babysit for two energetic boys aged 7 and 9 who keep me busy with their lego and story reading requests!  I attend 6th Form and am studying A-levels in maths, physics and product design. 

Josh Harris

I am a Primary School teacher with a wealth of experience working with children with additional needs. I love all sports including football and going to the gym.

Rebecca Hocking

I am currently studying journalism at MARJONs and have recently been employed to report on Raider’s Matches for the Evening Herald.  I have lots of charity experience and enjoy interacting with young people and helping to enable them.

Emily Soper

I come from Plymouth and enjoy being on our trips and meeting the families.  I’ve recently started university to train as a paediatric nurse.

Brett Tindle

I’ve been involved with Friends and Families for many years, and really enjoy the activities, especially water-sports! I think the charity is fantastic because it covers all disabilities and supports every member of the family. I discovered the charity because my two younger brothers were supported through the Fun and Freedom Club and I got involved because I wanted to give back.

I’ve worked in youth work in the past and lived in Plymouth for nearly 20 years, currently with my cat, Shady and my tortoise, Hercules.

Dani Venters

I have cared for children and young adults for 10 years now and have been aware of friends and family and the amazing support network they are for families of special needs children. I’ve started my degree in Social Work this year and look forward to continuing my Sessional work for years to come. 

Abby Williams

I moved to Plymouth when I started University.  I like to keep busy and volunteer as a Brownie Leader and am a qualified First Aider for St John’s Ambulance.  This takes me all over the world, from Jamborees in America to First Aid support at Wimbledon.  I headed up the volunteering society at Plymouth University and I also enjoy unicycling!

I have worked for Friends and Families since 2015 and take on many roles for the Charity.

What our friends and families say...

Thankyou family and friends for being there for me it’s been unbelievable, but you guys are always there for a chat or advice xx 

Helen”

Thank you, as always, for a fantastic event. Daisy had a great time x

Andy Smith”

24.02.20

Morgan had a fantastic time this is her 2nd time of joining fun and freedom activities and is enjoying it very much and looks forward to the next so thank you 

Charlie Harris”

24.02.20

These guys are absolutely amazing! If you are a family with a SEN child this charity is great to connect with. There is activities provided for different groups; children with additional needs, children with severe additional needs, siblings of Sen children and family activities. Plus they are an important hub of any information you may need. Oscar is part of their ‘adventure club’ and this gives him bags of opportunities to access so many different things – pizza making at Prezzo, archery, day trips out, access to a hydro pool. Just to name a very small amount. No judging, full support and a chance to connect to other families just like ours 

Jolene Cumes”

24.02.20

Lovely activities for both the children with send and the rest of the families. The workers really understand the situation and are very supportive. We have used the lending library and family support services. Thank you for allowing my youngest to have a break from being a carer 

Chloe Botterill”

20/02/20

Attended a session about sensory processing, was very well presented. Loved the idea of practical experiments putting yourself into a child with processing disorders shoes to see the world from their point of view. Really helpful information.

Donna Potter (parent) Jan 2020

I would highly recommend friends and family of special children. I think all the staff are fantastic, very friendly, helpful and do an amazing job. as a family with 3 sen children you guys are a god send with the activities and workshops you put on for families and the children. We really love the lending library and wish we had found you guys years ago. It would have saved us loads money lol. Thank you and keep up all the good hard work. You help us so much as a family 😍 x

Helen Blaco October 2019

“The emotional support I received from my befriender was fantastic and the opportunity to off load and reveal my concerns and fears was like having a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Gareth Allen (parent)

Absolutely amazing charity that offer amazing support to the whole family and lovely breaks for the siblings. My daughter has benefited from days out with the fun and freedom club and adores Brett as he always makes her smile and feel comfortable. My son has autism and ADHD so sometimes life can be a little stressful for her so a days break away to enjoy herself with other children who experience similar things is amazing. It gives her a chance to play and be herself. The family events are always so fantastic as well and so are the events for the disabled child. Friends and family really are such an amazing charity that really cares. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

Jodie Jones (parent) June 2018

“Not only does the charity provide exciting experiences for the children but can also help with much needed support for the parents.  Being a parent of a disabled child can at times be very lonely and isolating.  To meet with other parents on these activity days is a breath of fresh air and helps you to realise that there are many other people like you facing the similar day to day challenges of having a disabled child.  From our personal experiences we can share stories, offer help and advice and even make new friends.”

January 2018

“Thank you to all staff for looking after our kids at Magdalen Farm. Oliver has really enjoyed himself and can’t wait till the next time.”

August 2017

“What a fantastic friendly welcoming place. We visited for the first time this morning for help to fill in a DLA form for our eldest daughter. We were given great help and advice with something we found very overwhelming and difficult.”

February 2017

“It was the best day ever being able to go swimming as a family with her little sister who can only use a hydrotherapy pool. We’re so grateful we can have unforgettable days out thanks to the events you put on. We can thank you enough.”

May 2016

“Thank you, yet again, to Friends & Families of Special Children for providing opportunities for my son that I never thought he would be able to do.  During the summer he was able to have surfing lessons and enjoy other water sport activities organised by the charity.   When we arrive at the sessions they are always very well planned and as parents we have no explaining to do and even better no apologising for our child’s behaviour!  The staff have an amazing understanding and empathy on the needs of various disabilities of the children and this helps to keep everyone relaxed and happy including the parents/carers!”

October 2015

Activity Calendar

All face-to-face events have been postponed at this time. We are however running Zoom sessions on an individual and group basis. Sessions are available for the whole family. If you're looking for advice, support, or a general get together, please get in touch to schedule info@friendsandfamilies.org.uk | 01752 204369.

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