First Step celebrates 30 years of supporting Havering families and children with disabilities

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 February 2018 | UPDATED: 07:57 20 February 2018

Student nurse volunteering at one of First Step's play sessions.

Student nurse volunteering at one of First Step's play sessions.


A Hornchurch charity is celebrating 30 years of providing vital support to families and caring for youngsters with disabilities.

First Step in Tangmere Crescent has helped hundreds of Havering families since its foundation in 1988.

Michelle Mitchell, fundraising manager at First Step, told the Recorder: “What makes us unique is that children and families can attend from birth.

“We have a holistic approach to the family, we provide 360 degree support.”

First Step is marking its pearl anniversary with a programme of various events throughout the year.

Tickets for its Quiz Night on Saturday, February 24 have already sold out, however the charity is also holding a Step 2 It Havering 5k run on Wednesday, June 13 and the First Step Golf Day, ‘The Pearl Classic’ on Friday, September 8.

Finally, there will be a big 30th Anniversary ball at Orset Hall on Saturday October 6.

“Fundamentally, the reasons why First Step started are the same reasons that we exist today, and that is to support families and children,” said Michelle.

L-R: Debbie Bennett, Michelle Mitchell fundraising manager, Mark Halls CEO, Allie Marchington, Caroline Hood and Janet Hutchinson. L-R: Debbie Bennett, Michelle Mitchell fundraising manager, Mark Halls CEO, Allie Marchington, Caroline Hood and Janet Hutchinson.

“There is as much of a need to support the children and families today as there was in 1988.”

The charity has a special sensory room, a dedicated parents’ room, space for developmental play, and they provide PACC (promoting attention, communication and co-operation) sessions, run for youngsters with social communication difficulties or autism spectrum disorders.

Staff create health care plans and observational reports at the end of every session, each tailored for the child’s individual needs.

Mum, Sera Turkdogan first brought her son, Aiden to First Step in July, 2016.

Aiden was born with severe laryngomalacia, a defect of the airway.

Sera said: “First Step has saved me. I will never be judged here and it has made such a difference to us. Because of First Step, I have become the best mum I possibly can be to my children.

“It was here I finally felt like I belonged somewhere and I was no longer being judged on my parenting or on the decisions I was making for my son.”

Mum Lisa and her daughter, Charlotte, who has Downs Syndrome have also enjoyed the support they receive from First Step.

“The staff get to know each and every child so well, their likes, dislikes, their needs and how to work with them all individually,” said Lisa.

“I have made wonderful friends here, friends for life.”

Friends of First Step (FoFS) re-launched in 2017 with the aim of providing a network for their supporters.

Speaking about FoFS, Mark Halls, First Step chief executive, said: “It’s starting to show real fruit by calling to people who have involvement with us over the last 30 years.

“Without their help it will become harder and harder to give support to families in the future.”

Sharon Everest, who works with the children at First Step, added: “I have been here for 20 years and I still bump into people that were here 15 years ago, because they still like to meet up.

“We work will all the people in the community, physios, speech therapists, it’s very much multi-agency.”

The Recorder readers helped First Step raise £1.1m in 2004 for the charity to move into its facilities in Hornchurch.

“The [Recorder] team really threw themselves into it and were really committed. They understood our values, and that’s what has made the difference,” said Michelle.

First Step need about £400,000 a year to maintain the services it currently provides.

This year the charity still needs £350,000 of funding.

The staff at First Step have been working hard to negate the loss of funding from Havering Council in April last year.

Mark said: “Whilst it’s true a lot of charities have suffered the same fate, we recognise that early intervention is key, and we are some of the earliest interventions.”

If you would like to support First Step, Michelle encourages people to get involved by contacting the charity at 01708 556355.

Related articles

Latest Romford News Stories

58 minutes ago

A shop in Upminster was robbed by two men with a 15-inch knife and a hammer.


A number of egg-citing events are set to take place in Romford town centre over the Easter weekend.

Train drivers’ union ASLEF has cancelled a planned strike for next Wednesday.


School engagement programmes and start-up training centres are some of the commitments a major development company has made, alongside a contract to create more than 3,000 new homes in Havering.


A man accused of stabbing a 28-year-old drug addict to death, told the Old Bailey yesterday, Monday, March 19, there was no money in killing someone, and it was “crazy” to think he would commit such a crime days after his release from jail.

Yesterday, 17:00

Sea cadets were welcomed to celebrate the 80th birthday of the HMS Belfast with a special anniversary weekend.

Yesterday, 15:00

An English teacher who has dreamed of becoming a writer since she was a child, has released her first novel, centred around love, friendship and parenting.

Yesterday, 13:00

Great English landscape designer Humphry Repton died 200 years ago this week. Local historian Georgina Green looks at his life and connections to the area


Fed up with haggling on people’s drives over a used car, only to find out later it’s on its last legs?

Many drivers will be heading to the showrooms in March looking to pick up a car bearing the shiny new 18 registration plate.

Window and conservatory specialist Ken Rhodes talks about the possibilities for brightening up your home for the new year, and with their home improvement finance deals it’s possible for everyone to make some changes

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area


Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now