Barnardo’s Royal Patron, The Duchess of Cornwall, visited Barnardo’s innovative Wellbeing Hub in Ilford today (Thursday, 21 February) and saw first-hand how the lives of vulnerable children and young people are being transformed.

During her visit, The Duchess of Cornwall cut a celebratory ribbon marking the opening of a new therapeutic sensory space at the Hub, funded by businessman and Barnardo’s supporter Asif Ansari and his wife Sarah.

She also met a group of care leavers who described how they are being supported by the charity. They showed The Duchess their proposed designs for a colourful drop-in space at the Hub on Granville Road over a cup of tea and slice of cake to celebrate the royal visit baked by 19-year-old care leaver Zhane Decembre.

Zhane, from East London, who now runs her own bakery business, said:

“It was amazing to meet The Duchess and she was very impressed by the cake. She said it was ‘outstanding’ and that she was hoping to see me on the Great British Bake Off. Barnardo’s has been so supportive in helping me start my business and I’m so grateful for everything they have done for me. I shall never forget meeting The Duchess and I hope today is the start of a very bright future for me.”

Isaac Harvey, 23, from Ilford, who was previously supported by Barnardo’s and is now a mentor and volunteer, said:

“The Duchess was really interested in the Wellbeing Hub and she spent a lot of time speaking with the children and young people who use the service. I also was impressed that The Duchess wanted to know how we support children and young people with disabilities. I myself have a disability and I really appreciated her taking time to get to know me more.”

Barnardo’s Redbridge Leaving Care service, run in partnership with Redbridge Council, supported 238 care leavers last year. Young people who leave care can struggle with mental health issues as they are forced to be independent much younger than their peers. In England 21% of young people leave care as young as 16.

A Barnardo’s study suggests that nearly half of England’s 26,340 care leavers may be suffering with mental health problems and found that one in four had faced a mental health crisis since leaving care.

During her visit, The Duchess of Cornwall also took part took in an arts and crafts session with a group of young carers and received a tour of the Wellbeing Hub’s new sensory room and music room which will help provide therapeutic support to children and young people with disabilities.

Barnardo’s Young Carers Service supported 152 young carers in Redbridge last year. Research shows young carers undertake in excess of 30 hours of caring a week for parents and siblings, carrying out tasks including cleaning and shopping, providing intimate personal care, administering medication and managing household finances.

Ten-year-old Anton who helps care for his older sister said:

“The Duchess was really nice and I felt so happy when I met her because it was a complete surprise! Barnardo’s really helps me and other young carers with things like homework and learning and we get to have fun and go on trips. I hope more people can support Barnardo’s in anyway they can as it can help young carers improve their life experience.”

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:

“It is a real honour to show our Royal Patron, The Duchess of Cornwall how our expert workers support some of the most vulnerable children and young people in Ilford and around the UK.

“Some of these children have huge responsibilities, spending up to 30 hours a week caring for a parent or sibling. Others are adjusting to adult life after being in local authority care, and don’t have a family of their own to support them.

“Services like Barnardo’s Wellbeing Hub and our new sensory room help young people overcome past trauma and cope with challenging circumstances, so they can go on to lead successful adult lives.”

The Duchess was given a guided tour of the Wellbeing Hub by the charity’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan and met Barnardo’s London Director Lynn Gradwell, the Mayor of Redbridge, Councillor Debbie Kaur-Thiara and Asif and Sarah Ansari who donated funds for the new sensory room.


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