A NORBURY mum is hoping to improve opportunities for children with special needs by launching a new out-of-school club, learning from her own experiences with her daughter.
Nikki Haffenden, 31, cares for 11-year-old Shakira, who has a number of physical and mental disabilities including the fact that she struggles to talk.
Shakira, a Priory School pupil, has ben diagnosed with microcephaly, a variant of Dandy-Walker Syndrome, global development delay and epilepsy, which all affect her learning and physical capabilities.
As a young mum, giving birth at age 19, Nikki wished more help could have been available to manage her daughter’s needs.
“I feel like me and Shakira have grown up together so it has given me a foundation of knowledge of what children with needs do require,” said Nikki, of Newlands Road.
“Shakira has always been as happy as she can be.
“She has not been able to join in with regular fun and games, though. The school will benefit her, too.
“I worked throughout raising her and I know the difficulties for parents trying to maintain an income and look after their child.”
Nikki left school with two GCSEs and was associated with “what may have been construed as gang culture”.
However, in her late 20s she returned to education, completing a criminology and sociology degree at Royal Holloway University.
Throughout her career she has worked in social services, for the Home Office and as a volunteer.
In January, she decided she wanted to take her business model seriously and is now hoping to hire ten staff to run the facility in Bensham Lane, Thornton Heath.
She said her company’s main aim was “working for social change” and she will also operate a service to assist families with various issues and referrals.
The out-of-school club’s focus will be on children with additional needs but Nikki wants mainstream youngsters to also attend to help encourage social inclusion.
“I’ve had calls from many parents asking me when it’s going to open as it’s a new option they can use,” said Nikki. The service will take in children after school until 7.30pm at £4.50 an hour and throughout the school holidays on rates available on request.