Charlotte Macken

Finalist’s blog #2: Light

Find out about Light’s aims, volunteer recruitment and lessons learnt. 


Quick recap of my idea

The vision I have is to create a group and community of parents that have special needs children and have been through the process of diagnosis, decoding the mine field of support, what worked for them when their child had a meltdown in the middle of the supermarket and how they juggled work, life and people staring at them because they “can’t control their child”. Take this wealth of knowledge (which I don’t have, I have the knowledge of knowing which intervention is vital, strategies to adapt at home that is used within the educational setting and networks within the local community) and share it with parents with 0 to 5 year old children that have special needs and are going through a diagnosis and need some “light” on their situation.

Progress of my idea

Surveys have been completed in my current setting of work within a special needs school to recruit the buddies for my group. There was a great turn out of willing colleagues and parents who all have older children with special needs and who were willing to be a part of my group. I was quite nervous regarding the “sustainability” of my project as it totally relies on the time and experience of parents.

I then tackled the local community through social media such as Facebook and community groups, early year’s settings, play centres, coffee mornings and specialist teachers to recruit the cohort of parents with younger children. For a trial group you don’t want to over advertise as you are entering a very sensitive area of families lives – the general reply via social media and emails were extremely positive, alas the turn out of the trial day was a bit different.

My trial group

Light’s first trial group took place on the 3rd December at Miracle House in Wickford. Refreshments were served to ease everyone’s nerves (including mine) and the ice was quickly broken! I booked a room for two hours but the parents could have easily continued supporting each other for longer! A few more boring details were completed such as a pre and post-trial group surveys and further research.

And now?

It has been a great experience to network within the local community and an opportunity to build upon my vision with or without winning. Thank you for this opportunity!



This is one of blogs written by the Families Included Prize finalists. Click here to find out what other finalists are up to.

The Families Included Prize is the first time a challenge prize has been run by a county council in the UK. Essex County Council is working with Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, to develop and deliver this exciting new way for the Council to engage local communities, as well as discover and support great solutions.

For more information about the Families Included Prize, visit:, and follow #FamiliesIncluded on Twitter.