Hornchurch and Upminster St John Ambulance leaders form first unit for young people with special needs

L-R: Devon Cressy youth leader, Laura Reilly unit manager, Lorraine Bewes director of finance and pe

L-R: Devon Cressy youth leader, Laura Reilly unit manager, Lorraine Bewes director of finance and performance at the London Ambulance Service. Photo: British Ceremonial Arts Photo: British Ceremonial Arts - Credit: Archant

Upminster and Hornchurch youth leaders were presented with an award for using their specialist knowledge create a special youth unit for children with special needs.

Laura Reilly and Devon Cressy from the Upminster and Hornchurch St. John Ambulance unit were presented with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) trophy for youth work by LAS director Lorraine Bewes on Sunday, November 4.

Last year the youth workers were contacted by parents of children with educational and physical needs who wanted to learn first aid and join the organisation as cadets.

Laura, the unit manager and Devon, one of the youth leaders, both work in schools for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

This meant that they were able to use the specialist knowledge they had to drive this idea forward and now they believe they have created the first St John Ambulance SEN group in England.

Laura said: “It’s been a great success. Parents absolutely love it and the children too. When they turn up in their uniforms you can see that they’re very proud of what we do.

“We started in January with a pilot of four children, and now we’ve got six .

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“We work on their social and first aid skills by teaching them how to do CPR and about the recovery position.”

Devon has started using scrap books to record the progress of the participants for families to see what their children are achieving.

The aim of the group is to help the children join the regular St John Ambulance group which also has some children with special needs who participate.

“Some of the children have more severe disabilities and can’t be in a big group,” said Laura.

“There’s not many after school activities they can do because they’re not inclusive enough.”

Eve Wright, district manager for St. John Ambulance, added: “The initiative shown by the team at Upminster and Hornchurch demonstrates what St John Ambulance can give to those in their communities who need extra specialised help to succeed and achieve.

“This award is well deserved and they are a credit to the charity.”

The group meets every Monday from 6pm to 7pm at the Emerson Park Social Hall in Slewins Lane.