Sam Tebb’s story: boosting support for families with disabled children

Sam Tebb founded Parent Suportal to support families of disabled children.

Date

2023

Location

Liverpool, UK

Parents of disabled children often face barriers in accessing their children’s rights. Sam Tebb set up Parent Suportal to make accessing support easier for families, saving parents valuable time.

My name is Sam Tebb and I live just outside Liverpool with my husband Scott and my two-year-old daughter, Izzy.  

I run two companies, one is called Blue Skies Ahead, which is a therapy centre for children and adults with disabilities. I also started Parent Suportal, another company to help support the parents and carers of the disabled children that I work with on a day-to-day basis. 

 

I had been working with parents of children with disabilities for many years, and I would keep hearing the same stories: that they were let down by the ‘system’.

I was inspired in my ventures by my grandmother, who started a disability dancing club, Hot Wheels, where I used to volunteer. She worked as a teaching assistant in a special needs school and noticed that there was no provision for dancing with disabled people. I just fell in love with helping people – particularly people with disabilities. A couple years ago, I took over Hot Wheels from my grandmother, sort of coming a full circle. 

In 2019, I set up Parent Suportal, because I had been working with parents of children with disabilities for many years, and I would keep hearing the same stories: that they were let down by the ‘system’. Nobody had advised them of the support that they were entitled to, and had they known more, it would have made their life so much easier. In fact, the Disabled Children’s Council did a piece of research and found that up to 69% of parents of disabled children receive no support whatsoever. So, I thought, somebody should do something about this, somebody should make it easier for parents to know what to look for, how to access support and what they need to do. That’s when I had the idea to try and support parents by pulling together all the useful information out there, and delivering it in a simple, straightforward format. Since establishment, we have directly mentored and supported over 50 families. Indirectly through workshops, community engagement, online activity, and resource downloads, we have reached over 3000 families.

Parents do have to become fundraisers, medical experts, and legal experts. We help direct them to where they need to go, what they need to do, and what they need to look for...

There are many grants, benefits, and reductions that parents might be entitled to, but parents go years, if not decades, not actually knowing where and how to access them – especially financial, and educational support. Parents don’t know their rights, or what their child is entitled to, and how to go about it, even from an advocacy point of view. As a result, children get placed in classes that aren’t appropriate, and they don’t have the right support in place. So, we are passionate about helping parents be advocates for their children. We want to empower parents to be able to write certain letters, navigate difficult conversations, and make sure that they get the correct provisions in place.  

At Parent Suportal, we do this in many ways, such as running bite size online workshops to help parents navigate different challenges, such as how to fundraise. We’re just about to launch our membership portal where we offer modules on key topics such as finances, education, health, and social care. Because essentially, parents do have to become fundraisers, medical experts, and legal experts. And that’s before they can even become a parent. So, we want to really scale back all that time they spend doing administration. We help direct them to where they need to go, what they need to do, and what they need to look for – this means a lot of signposting, creating simple checklists, timelines, and resources. We have set up a grant directory, for example, so if you’re looking for grants, you know where to find them. We pull everything into one place, essentially. 

One of the main things that the government needs to do is prioritize support for families looking after children with disabilities. This means funding after-school clubs, appropriate provision, and ensuring that there are basic standards that should be met for people who work in the care sector.

Over 80% of families with children with disabilities are single parent families. There is always a breakdown in the relationship, due to the pressures and the stress of having a child with a disability. So, you know, 80% of caregivers are on their own, with maybe other children – how can we expect them to deal with everything alone? I think that the key thing that that we at Parent Suportal do, is to help families create a plan. We help them navigate and foresee the hurdles that they’re going to come up against. They can then navigate these more smoothly, and they’re not as frustrated. They don’t fall apart. When we have empowered parents in that way, you will find that they can sometimes go back to work full-time and even pick up part-time hobbies!  

One of the main things that the government needs to do is prioritize support for families looking after children with disabilities. This means funding after-school clubs, appropriate provision, and ensuring that there are basic standards that should be met for people who work in the care sector. The extra burden of the cost of a disabled child should be covered, ideally by the state. 

My vision for Parents Suportal is to have a bespoke platform which incorporates all the things that we’ve already started and has the capability for parents to store their documents, such as health reports, medical reports, school reports, securely and in one place. So that they literally just go to one dashboard to access everything. Ideally, parents would also get an email reminder with their to-do lists. I just want everything to be as seamless as possible for parents.  

I’m extremely passionate about my work, and I think that really helps fuel what we do.”

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Our advocacy project on unequal unpaid care work is supported by the Ares Charitable Foundation and delivered with CARE International UK.

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