Posted on Thursday 21st June 2012
Pictured left to right are Lauren's mum Sian Banford; Lauren Kumar, Mark Rolfe and Ashlie Holland and their daughter Darcy
A Pontypridd family have spoken of the joy they have experienced caring part-time for a child with severe learning disabilities, giving the girl’s own mother respite.
Link carers Mark Rolfe and Ashlie Holland first welcomed Lauren Kumar into their home as a lively six-year-old. Ashlie first met Lauren in the autistic unit at the school where she works and discovered that due to the severity of Lauren’s needs, her mother Sian had not spent more than one night away from her in five years.
Ashlie and her partner Mark decided to offer part-time respite care to Lauren at their home, through the Family Link scheme for disabled children and their parents run by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. Lauren has stayed at their home overnight twice a month for the past 11 years.
The aim of Family Link is to provide disabled children with regular, planned short-break stays in the link carer’s home. Many carers link for one weekend a month, some fortnightly or weekly and some for day care only.
Having short breaks with another family gives disabled children the chance to have fun, make new friends and enjoy new activities. Parents also get chance to recharge their batteries and spend time with their other children. Being a link carer for the past 11 years has been very rewarding, explained Mark.
"Happiness and joy have been the major benefits to Lauren and to us. The laughs, the fun times, to get an experience first-hand how life is for Lauren have been an eye-opener and given us an immeasurable amount of reward.
"Our own daughter Darcy sees Lauren as a sister and is fully aware of the problems faced by young people with disabilities and their families. This has helped our own daughter to grow into a compassionate girl, who cares."
Cllr Annette Davies, Rhondda Cynon Taf Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Services, said: "It is heartening to hear how Mark and Ashlie clearly regard Lauren as part of their family and have found being part of Family Link such a rewarding experience.
"There are a number of families in Rhondda Cynon Taf who would benefit greatly from the kind of dedication that Mark and Ashlie have provided. We would like to hear from any single people or families who feel they could give this invaluable support to others on a part-time basis."
Reflecting on the past 11 years, Mark added: "It’s not always been sunny. There have been hard times encouraging Lauren to respect our family rules, hard times managing behaviour that is not always acceptable.
"Some people say we are special but what we really are is an ordinary family trying to provide an extraordinary experience for a young lady with a disability."
Families who decide to become link carers firstly need to go through a rigorous assessment, which includes Criminal Bureau checks and health medicals. They will then receive training and ongoing support from the Family Link team and an allowance to cover expenses and time spent with the child.
If you are interested in becoming a link carer, a member of the Family Link team will first arrange a visit to your home to discuss the role in greater detail.
To find out more, please call the Family Link team on 01443 665455