Mum’s Special Education Needs campaign sees 2,400 sign up for support group with a difference.

A Staffordshire mum and schoolteacher whose campaign inspired by her son touched thousands is now working to support all parents of children with special education needs.

Charlie Beswick set up SEND Gin and Cheese in 2022, with SEND standing for Special Educational Needs & Disability.

In less than a year, the group has grown to a community of 2,400, organising events across the UK.

Summer events in Stoke-on-Trent attracted 50 families and there’s already plans to repeat the programme in summer 2024.

Charlie, of Biddulph, said: “I set out to do something different. There are very few organisations out there to support the mental wellbeing of mums after their child’s diagnosis and it can feel incredibly lonely, so I wanted to reach out to mums, like me, who need to talk, but I also recognised the importance of having fun and a space where you can really be yourself.”

Charlie founded Our Altered Life following the birth of her son, Harry, who has Goldenhar syndrome, and was born missing an eye, eye-socket, nostril, and ear from one side of his face. He was later diagnosed with autism.

Her awareness raising posts on various social media platforms, resonated with readers, and led to Charlie being invited to speak at many events.

Now Charlie has launched SEND Gin and Cheese as a Community Interest Company.

She said: “I initially launched it on Facebook as a place to talk and share ideas and there was a clear demand. There are now 2,400 mums in the Gin and Cheese community.

“When people join, we ask them to tell us their favourite drink and snack and this breaks the ice. We do it in that way as it is important that they have their own space and reclaim just for a moment a bit of their own identity, so they aren’t just, for example, Joe’s mum.”

SEND Gin and Cheese held recent meet-ups in London and Manchester and want to extend their programme across the UK. To do this, the organisation needs company sponsors who are willing to support events and truly make a difference to this community.

This summer, Charlie worked with support from the HUB Foundation charity, to organise a school summer holiday programme at Forest Park Primary School, Stoke-on-Trent, called SEND Fun and Friends.

Charlie said: “Six weeks of sessions for around 50 families in Stoke on Trent proved to be amazing for both children and parents.

“The youngsters were able to participate in a wide range of activities, including a visit to Alton Towers, and parents came together to support each other.

“Nothing is more powerful than having someone truly understand your struggles and your wins.”

“We’re already planning to do it all again in 2024.”

Following the success of SEND Gin and Cheese, Charlie is also expanding the Community Interest Company into events for dads and siblings.

“Having a child with a SEND diagnosis is isolating for parents and affects the whole family,” added Charlie. “Harry is a twin, and his brother Oliver is so supportive, however, SEND support for siblings is scarce.”


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