News

SENsational News

January 2022


Two Norfolk based charities, the Norfolk and Norwich SEND Association (Nansa) and SENsational Families, have been working collaboratively throughout the pandemic to ensure ongoing support for families of children and adults with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

SENsational Families provides help and advice to families in Norfolk with children and young people affected by special educational needs or disabilities.

The service supports parents from pregnancy through to birth, childhood and then young people up to 25 years old. Parents can self-refer to a family advisor support system for face-to-face and virtual support groups.

Alongside Nansa, the charity’s support groups have provided opportunities for parents and carers to further educate themselves in areas that will help them understand and care for their child more effectively, while increasing public awareness of special educational needs and disabilities.

The collaboration began in 2020 when Nansa approached SENsational Families to appear in their documentary Navigating the New Normal. The film, which is available on YouTube, documented how each service adapted during the initial lockdown period and throughout 2020. After the film’s release, funding was secured for SENsational Families to deliver weekly support and advice groups out of the Nansa Family Centre on Woodcock Road in Norwich.

Leon Smith, CEO at Nansa, said:

“Hosting the family support groups has been a real success. The Family Support advisors from SENsational Families have an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience supporting families with SEND. Their advice service wonderfully complements the specialist provision Nansa already provides.”

The collaboration between Nansa and SENsational Families has proven so successful the Trustees of both charities formed a joint planning committee to discuss whether a merger could ensure increased support for families and better long-term sustainability for both organisations. This resulted in SENsational Families formally joining Nansa.

Margaret Smith, Nansa trustee and chair of the joint planning committee, said: “We were thrilled at the possibility of formally uniting with SENsational Families. Our collaborative work throughout 2021 has shown how symbiotic and mutually beneficial working together could be. We are very excited about how our programme for families can now evolve and develop.

SENsational Families are the second SEND offering to formally join Nansa. In June 2021, the Disability Real Action Group of Norfolk (DRAGONs) joined the charity after many years of collaborative work.

Sarah Harrison, Head of Advocacy and Participation at Nansa (and DRAGONs Lead) said:

“Nansa is such an inclusive and welcoming home for SEND support programmes such as the DRAGONs project and SENsational Families. Formally joining forces will enrich the programmes and allow for growth and development with greater levels of support.”

In October 2021, founder and CEO of SENsational Families, Nicki Price, made the decision to step down, and said:

“I am so incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved over the past few years. During my time as CEO I have met hundreds of inspirational families and I am continually in awe of our exceptional team, who go above and beyond to ensure those families get the support they need.

“Although I am moving on to a new role, my support of SENsational Families will continue in an advisory role. We have ambitious and exciting plans ahead, and I cannot wait to see the programme evolve throughout 2022.”

John Sorrell, Chair of Trustees at Nansa, said:

“We are delighted to welcome SENsational Families to Nansa and are so grateful to their former CEO Nicki and trustees for their support throughout the planning and due diligence process. Their guardianship to date has seen SENsational Families grow into a vital and much-loved service accessed by hundreds of beneficiaries countywide. We thank them for entrusting Nansa to facilitate the next chapter in their story and we look forward to working alongside our new colleagues.”

The team at Nansa was also delighted to learn that it is one of a number of local charities chosen by new creative agency Unbound for support with their brand messaging and public communication in 2022. The brainchild of Nikki Lamb and Michelle Williams, Unbound’s mission is to educate and empower charities. The duo will assist Nansa throughout 2022 by looking at ways the charity can better emphasise and showcase support for those with SEND.

To learn more about SENsational Families visit their independent website by clicking the button below:

Range Rover Crashes…

November 2021


A Range Rover crashed into one of Nansa’s Charity Shops in Norwich on Wednesday 24th November.

Police and fire crews were called to the Nansa Charity Shop on Thorpe Avenue in Thorpe St Andrew after a car crashed into the side of the building and caused some damage to the shop.

Staff and customers at Nansa’s Thorpe Avenue charity shop were aghast when a Range Rover crashed into the front of the building shorty after it opened yesterday morning. Luckily no one was hurt although the building sustained structural damage.

The photograph shows damage to the interior from an incident that could have much more serious. Shaken staff and a young trainee were removed from the scene.

Richard Mills, the Development Coach, described the terrifying moment the impact happened:

“There was a very loud noise and everything fell down from the window display. A few feet to the side and it would have been inside, half way across the shop floor. I had just helped a customer who wanted an item from the window and we were walking to the till when it happened. We had a lucky escape.”

Nansa’s charity shops offer work experience and training for adults with learning disabilities as well as generating income to help keep the charity running.

Amanda Lockwood, Head of Trading and Partnerships, said:

“The incident has been a real shock, we provide services for people with SEND to gain work experience in our shops and this was a frightening experience for them and our staff.

Nansa are reliant on income from our shops to support our services and we were just beginning to recover from the loss of income due to Covid and now we face no income during our busiest trading period over Christmas.

We hope that the community will get behind us and support us, now more than ever by donating to our Christmas campaign, details of which can be found on our website and our Facebook page.”

Loyal customers of the Thorpe Road shop are likely to continue support once it reopens; in the midst of firefighters, police and a wrecked shop, a regular customer insisted on purchasing a roll of carpet they had had their eye on!

Photo (left to right): Jake (Trainee) and Richard (Development Coach)

Norfolk Social Infrastructure Fund

Autumn 2021


Nansa are delighted and overwhelmed to receive £165,000 for urgent and necessary roofing works at their Adults’ Centre on Bowthorpe Rd in Norwich.

Norfolk County Council has handed out £1.02 million to 25 different organisations, with grants ranging £3,400 all the way up to £250,000.

Andrew Proctor, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said:
“Our county’s voluntary and community groups are an essential part of Norfolk’s infrastructure and that has been demonstrated by the excellent work they have done and continue to do in the pandemic. The funding through the Social Infrastructure Fund will support some of Norfolk’s most vulnerable people and communities and enable them to safely come together again to enjoy a range of activities in improved facilities.”

“The number and quality of the applications we received this year proved that Norfolk is full of great initiatives that will really benefit our residents. My thanks to everyone who submitted a bid for the work done to support your communities. The £1m we have awarded will provide a real boost to the successful projects and allow them get new ideas off the ground or accelerate what they’re already doing.”

In total, the fund saw 64 applications with funding requests that totalled almost £5million. This was more than double the number of applications received last year.

The Norfolk Social Infrastructure Fund was established to award £1million to community groups and voluntary organisations for new initiatives or improvements to existing offers or facilities. This year the grant was widened to make more money available smaller projects, with 25% or £250,000 offered for grants of between £5,000 and £50,000.

Applicants were able to apply for capital grants that support the Council’s plan ‘Together, for Norfolk’, and that help the county recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Leon Smith, CEO at Nansa, said: “We are thrilled to have received this award from Norfolk County Council, having secured funding for our internal refurbishment last year, we then set about securing further funds for the necessary (and quite urgent) repairs and restoration needed on our Adults’ Centre roof. We cannot thank NCC enough; this project is the next phase in a range of works that will see us future proof the building for the next generation. With the roofing work complete, we can then seek funding to install solar panels as part of our efforts to reduce our costs and carbon footprint.”

The Nansathon 2020

Summer 2021


On Sunday 20th June, Nansa hosted it’s first online fundraiser… staff and service users took inspiration from events such as Children in Need, Comic Relief etc and created their own series of fun videos; raising funds for (and awareness of) Nansa. Next year we hope the Nansathon will return, bigger and better. Check out the youtube playlist above and watch just some of the videos we created for the event.

Nansa and Wroxham Barns Launch New Project

Spring 2021


The Covid-19 crisis has impacted all areas of society, but has particularly hit the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities.  The rise in unemployment, coupled with the vulnerability of many people living with disability, has meant that there are even fewer opportunities for them to gain work experience or explore meaningful activity during their day.  Norfolk has areas of severe deprivation in rural and coastal communities as well as in the city of Norwich; these have higher than average rates of unemployment and therefore meaningful day and work experience opportunities in the region can be lacking for people with disabilities.

Nansa’s new project aims to offer adults with mild to moderate learning disabilities, meaningful placements in a new retail outlet (the Kids Kiosk) to be located at Wroxham Barns; and will also offer opportunities for participants (trainees) to work on the land with the animals.

Nansa has many years of experience in offering work placements to people with mild to moderate learning disabilities, and have successfully helped many trainees further their journey towards paid or voluntary work in their community. 

Nansa facilitates these traineeships in a range of work settings, one such placement has been at Wroxham Barns for the past 5 years, and it is the charity’s hope that this location, offering the combination of retail and outdoor farm work, will be beneficial to many more Trainees who will access the project over the coming 12 months.

The kids Kiosk will sell a good selection of pre-loved toys and children’s clothes that have been kindly donated by Nansa’s established charity shop supporters and donors. The charity will also be accepting donations at the Kiosk itself as well as asking local business to donate newer items for the launch of the project in May. 

Leon Smith (CEO at Nansa)

“Nansa has an environmentally sustainable approach to retail that perfectly blends with the ethos of Wroxham Barns. We have worked with them now for a number of years but I am so delighted we have this opportunity to expand on, and formalise, our partnership thanks to funding from the NEW Anglia LEP and The Garfield Weston Foundation.”

Craig (trainee pictured) has had a supported work placement at Wroxham barns since 2016. Craig told his Coach Mary that he feels very much a part of the team there and he really enjoys working outdoors. Craig likes greeting visitors and often exchanges a few words with them when possible. Craig has learnt the specific skills around feeding small animals, topping up all water dishes, cleaning chicken coops and runs and bedding.  

Mary McCambridge (Outreach Supervisor at Nansa)

“I am thrilled that, after all these years, we have the funding to offer others with learning disabilities the same wonderful opportunities that Wroxham Barns have facilitated for Craig. It could also allow Craig to mentor new participants, show them the ropes so to speak, and this, I feel, would provide all involved with a deservedly assured sense of self-worth and belonging.”

Ben Marshall (General Manager at Wroxham Barns)

“We’re delighted that we can take our long-standing relationship with Nansa even further, and help even more people get hands-on experience in a real working environment, this new studio fits in perfectly with our goal at Wroxham Barns of providing a great day out for children and families alike, with lots to see and do. We’re so excited to see this venture progress”

Remembering Peter Blackburn

February 2021


Today we remember our founder Peter Blackburn, who sadly passed away last week (on the same day as Sir Captain Tom, which we feel is quite fitting in terms of his legacy of kindness and generosity).

Peter Blackburn, who passed away on the 2nd February 2021, was a founder member of Nansa and also, over many years, a highly-valued fundraiser, Trustee and Patron of our charity.

Peter, a farmer from Pulham Market, along with his wife Alice and a small group of parents of children with disabilities, founded Nansa in 1954 after his daughter Joy was born with cerebral palsy.

The newly-formed group supported each other and new parents, and also raised awareness through fundraising events and activities. The charity grew and later joined forces with national Scope (which had also been formed in the early 1950s) to raise funds for the Nansa Work Centre which was then opened in 1965.

Peter was also part of a regional fundraising group which established a Scope Family Help Unit/Respite Centre in Bury St Edmunds. Sadly, Joy did not live to enjoy breaks at the centre, but the Blackburns stayed in touch and carried on supporting the unit for many years.

Once the Nansa Centre was opened, Peter would travel up from South Norfolk every month for committee meetings, and was an active committee member of the charity for many years.

He and Alice, supported by their daughter Alison and her family, attended events, bought raffle tickets, made cakes, supported staff and service-users, and spread the word about Nansa and those we support. Alice, along with her friend Cynthia, chaired South Norfolk Nansa, a fundraising group which held annual sales in Pulham Market for fifty years, and sent regular donations to support the wider charity’s work.

They were very excited about the establishment of the new Family Centre which was opened in 2001, knowing from personal experience what a great support this centre would be for the parents of children with disabilities, and as always they were generous with their donations towards the purchase of the building. Peter and Alice are part of the fabric of Nansa, and their generosity, enthusiasm and determination to improve the lives of children and adults with disabilities has been realised with the continuing success of Nansa.

Peter was a true Norfolk gentleman who was always available to offer help, advice and, above all, endless support for the service-users, families and staff of Nansa; he will be fondly remembered by all who knew him.

Benny The Bear 2020

Christmas 2020


In December 2020, Nansa released a Christmas campaign video to promote sustainable shopping and donations to charity shops.

Watch our #BennyTheBear video by clicking the button below… you may need some tissues!

Navigating the New Normal

Summer 2020


In Summer 2020 Nansa commissioned a film to document the stories and experiences of staff and service-users during and after the lockdown. The film shows how Nansa’s services have had to adapt to meet the needs of their families and members. Check out the documentary below:

Norfolk Freemasons are All Aboard

Summer 2020


Norfolk Freemasons first became aware of Nansa in 2017 when they were invited to our Family Centre on Woodcock Road, Norwich. The following year, their national grant making organisation, the Masonic Charitable Foundation, chose to fund Nansa’s Sleep service for a period of 3 years up to 2021. Since then local masons and Nansa have stayed in close contact, in June Nansa CEO, Leon Smith, approached them to see whether further funding support might be possible in order to sustain our All Aboard project into 2021.

“We were able to utilise an existing pot of funding to see us through to August 2020 but were concerned we would not be able to secure funding beyond that point and as a result; the varied range of support covered under the project was at risk of being discontinued. Our freemason friends have always been incredibly supportive and approachable, once I had explained our predicament they kindly offered to fund the project for an additional 6 months with an award of £28,000. This generous donation enables Nansa to not only provide families with support during this difficult period, but also gives us the time and space we need to secure a more long term funding partner for the project at the end of the financial year in 2021”

Leon Smith (CEO)

Having seen how families across Norfolk whose children with Autism, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other learning difficulties and disabilities are being helped by Nansa we welcomed the opportunity to ensure their latest All Aboard project could be started as soon as possible

Stephen Allen (Head of Norfolk Freemasons)