20th Anniversary Somerset Stories: Escape Support Group

Escape Support Group is a charity that offers support to families who have a child with any form of additional need or disability. They first received funding from us in 2007, and we’ve supported the group with over £35,000 in grants since they first applied to us for money.

We spoke to Sarah Phippen, Manager at ESCAPE, who told us more about their work and how, for many of their members, the activities they organise are pivotal to their wellbeing.

“We offer subsidised days out, trips, events and activities to families in Somerset who have a child with additional needs, all of which can be booked easily online. What we do takes the pressure off and removes the stressful elements of a trip away, allowing the whole family the opportunity to relax. All our transport is accessible, and the venues are checked prior to arrival to ensure they have disabled parking, accessible changing facilities etc.. We also give financial support by offering everything at around 50% of the cost. Because sometimes a trip out can feel like a constant battle for parents, due to all the additional requirements.

Families enjoying a trip on the canal

Families enjoying a trip on the canal

Our membership is £30 a year for the entire family, and there’s no expiry date, as long as the membership is renewed annually. We have one member who’s been with us 23 years, since Escape started in 2000 – she came to us aged 13 and she’s 36 now! She’s a wheelchair user and when she comes out with us for the day she sits with her mum and the other families on the coach and has a chat during the journey; everything’s taken care of sothey can relax and enjoy their day. Her family has made many friends through Escape, and come along to our activities, daytrips – even weeklong holidays. It means the whole family has a social life and feel part of a big family without judgement.

There’s nothing else like us in Somerset – we would encourage any family who is raising a child who has a disability or additional needs to get in touch with us to find out more. We have over 180 families registered, and so many of them tell us that the days out and holidays are opportunities that just wouldn’t be available to them without the additional support and flexibility we offer, such as a three-day break at Alton Towers that can be paid for in instalments.

One family who came on a trip to see a West End show wrote to us afterwards to say: “Thanks so much for a brilliant trip, we all had a lovely time and the show was amazing! We wouldn’t have gone to central London and the theatre without Escape, as we worry about having to navigate public transport with a wheelchair.”

There’s also the Peer Support Network which is so important for carers and family members; they can come to us for drop-in sessions or have a chat and a coffee, all within a supportive environment. Every other Saturday we have swimming club, which is incredibly popular with our members. We take over the public pool and have exclusive use of it – it takes so much worry and strain off the parents. And we put on special events just for carers, too.

As a charity we continue to dedicate time to organising fundraising events – with the help of parents and volunteers – but I’m so grateful to Somerset Community Foundation for the help and support you’ve shown us over the years, making it much easier, and quicker to access financial support through various grants – meaning the time saved can be spent supporting our members, or organising activities.

We’ve always received amazing advice from the Foundation over the years, and I feel so fortunate that you support our work. It really is life-changing for so many families in Somerset.”


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