Who are Friends and Families


Our mission is to work with families with disabled children and provide high quality services that make them feel valued, improve their wellbeing and experience the best quality of life possible

We are a non-profit organisation unique to Plymouth, providing information, support and services for families with disabled children, many of whom describe us as a life saver. Our services give families opportunities to network and create bespoke training and educational environments. We offer individual family support and give advice on relevant issues. We run social and leisure events allowing, ”time-out to have fun” away from the stresses and punishing regime of caring. This allows a vital ‘recharge of batteries’, relieving isolation and time for young carers to have fun. Integrated activities enable children with disabilities opportunities to experience a huge diversity of sports, arts, crafts and music not elsewhere available to them or their families.

Our group is friendly, informal and supportive. We encourage everybody to share their valuable information and experiences. We do not have an emphasis on any specific condition or disability but suggest that, regardless of the type of additional need, each family experiences similar concerns.

Friends and Families was founded in 2002 by Kay O’Shaughnessy, after she had had her daughter, Amy, who was born with profound disabilities. Soon after having Amy, Kay identified how challenging life could be, and identified a huge gap in service provision for children with disabilities and their families. She started a small coffee morning group and asked other parents with disabled children to join. The coffee mornings quickly developed into regular activity sessions for the families, and soon spiralled into a group providing a range of activity and support services, information and advice, befriending and peer support to hundreds of families with disabled children.

The group gained Charitable Status in 2005 (Registered charity No 1140826) and is now one of the main providers of integrated family activities, social and leisure activities for disabled children, disabled young people, and young carers, information and advice, and training or workshops for parents of disabled children within the City.

In 2018 we were approached by the Parliamentary Review as an example of best practice in our sector! and are featured in the 2019 Care Publication.

Friends and Families of Special Children Ltd is based in Virginia House, which was left to the people of Plymouth by Lady Nancy Astor. The Virginia House Settlement support us with both, these premises and grants which in turn, mean that we can echo Lady Astor’s wishes for the city and open the facilities for the benefit for Plymouth people.

Friends and Families of Special Children Friends and Families of Special Children Friends and Families of Special Children