A Sunderland councillor has joined the board of one of the city’s most prominent charities, as the organisation gears up to deliver additional support to children and their families.

Councillor Kelly Chequer, deputy portfolio holder for health and wellbeing at Sunderland City Council, has joined the board of Grace House North East, the city’s only short break centre for children with disabilities, bringing a wealth of knowledge to the table.

The Southwick ward councillor, a Labour Party member who also works in nursing, will join an impressive list of board members, to help strengthen the charity’s governance and ensure it is able to adapt to meet the needs of the city’s young people and their families.

Kelly, who was elected to the council chamber in 2016, said: “It is a total privilege to join the board of a charity that not only operates out of the ward I represent, but that does so much to support the wider city of Sunderland’s young people.

“Grace House is a truly wonderful place, where children can escape the challenges that come with often life-limiting conditions and disabilities, and where their parents and siblings can get the support they need to carry on caring for their loved one. I really do hope to be able to add value to this vital community resource, and ensure it continues to do such great work, not only for the people of Southwick, but for families across the city.”

Kelly’s appointment comes as Grace House bids to tap into additional funding that will enable it to deliver more and better support to children and their families, across the region. The charity is now offering a raft of support services, that includes short breaks to children and young people aged five to 17 and 11 months living with complex disabilities and autism; free holistic therapies and counselling for parents with a child from 0 to  25 years; counselling to siblings up to the age of 18; counselling for children with additional needs up to the age of 18 and whole-family activities to support parents over the school holidays. The charity will soon offer courses in Reiki to families, allowing them to practice at home to promote relaxation and support with children whose condition can leave them agitated.

Originally planned as a hospice for young people in and around Sunderland, Grace House was instead launched as a short break centre in 2016, having raised significant funding to finance its building, led by the late ITV broadcaster Kathy Secker.

Victoria Brown, chief executive of Grace House North East, said: “It’s fantastic to have Kelly join our board as we look to build on the range of support services we offer to provide yet-more exceptional support to families from the North East.

“From the moment I met Kelly, I could see that she would be a great addition to our board, not only because she is smart and connected, but because of her values – it was clear that we really mattered to her and that she will do everything she can to support us as we move forward.”

She added: “We are in the process of adding to our board, and people like Kelly, who can bring their professional and life skills to the table and who are passionate about our work, should get in touch.”

The centre, in Southwick, provides overnight stays to young people, providing them with a fun, safe, exciting environment, where they can live life to the full. This allows parents or carers, who may otherwise be looking after their child around the clock, to have a break from their caring role. As well as caring for the young people, the centre helps their families and is looking at a number of new initiatives – from support to ensure family members don’t become socially isolated due to their caring role, to classes and groups that can be enjoyed by both the carer and their child, as well as their siblings.

To find out more about Grace House, visit http://www.gracehouse.co.uk/

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