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History of Playskill

Playskill was founded in 2006 by Andrea Clarke MBE to support families and children in the local area

Andrea at work at Playskill, with a small child who is smiling

Playskill was founded by Andrea Clarke MBE when it became clear to her that there were many families with children with specialist physical needs or delay in the local area who were feeling isolated and needed support that was just not available to them.

She felt strongly that if we were able to bring a team of specialist therapists and older parents together to provide support and a listening ear in a group setting, children, parents, carers and siblings could be helped all at once. This would then help the local community to become more inclusive, informed and fulfilled as it worked with the children and families, something Andrea felt passionate about.

Now more than 15 years later, Playskill has grown from one pilot group to now running six sessions a week, across three terms a year. In that time we have been lucky enough to have been supported by many funders and the local community, without whom Playskill wouldn’t have been possible.

In 2018 Andrea was awarded an MBE for her services to children and young people with physical disabilities.

Timeline

  • 2006 Pilot Playskill group starts in the Spring following funding from Scope and UNLTD. A Management Committee is formed in the September.
  • 2007 Further funding from the Community Champions Fund, the Local Network Fund and Awards for All to continue pilot for 8 children.
  • 2008 Playskill became a charity in February out of the Management Committee was formed when it secured three years funding from Children in Need.
  • 2009 Grant from John Lewis Watford starts the Parents Breakfasts and The Fence Club give 10 boxes of toys used at our Christmas party for presents.
  • 2010 Playskill starts in Hemel Hempstead after a successful pilot. Successful bid for five year Big Lottery Grant for Watford’s work.
  • 2011 Wednesday afternoon at Watford begins. First Dad’s sailing event with the Colne Valley special sailors.
  • 2012 Playskill is now seeing 24 children and families per term in groups in Watford and Hemel Hempstead.
  • 2013 Hemel gets a Children in Need grant. The new Hemel afternoon group is launched with no funding due to overriding demand. Playskill comes third in National Lottery Awards for ‘Best Education’
  • 2014 Andrea Clarke receives NHS Patient Champion of the Year award. The Children in Need Rickshaw with the One Show presenter Matt Baker, visit Playskill in Hemel Hempstead and it’s on TV.
  • 2015 High Sheriff of Hertfordshire Award for Services to the Community for Andrea Clarke Pro-Action award for best charity. Audentior Award for best Watford charity. Successful bid for follow-on Big Lottery Grant for five years secured.
  • 2016 10th Anniversary. Thirty two families are now being supported through four weekly Playskill sessions. A surge in demand occurs again.
  • 2017 Garston Playskill group opens its doors in January thanks to One Family voting campaign by everyone.
  • 2018 Children in Need begin funding new Garston group. A surge in demand means the need to start another new Dome group. Supporting 50 families per term – running five sessions per week with another starting in September. Andrea is awarded an MBE for her servicer to children and young people with physical disabilities. She receives her award from Prince William in November.
  • 2019 Now running six sessions a week, Playskill cements the running of all six sessions. Playskill also takes receipt of a new larger van, helping to transport vital specialist equipment between our two sites in Hemel Hempstead and Watford.
  • 2020 The COVID-19 pandemic hits the UK forcing Playskill to stop all face to face work. Playskill rapidly adapts and spends the year providing a blend of remote support and one to one physiotherapy to those most in need. In November 2020 Playskill launches Springboard in response to a demand in our services. Springboard provides remote advice and support to families who otherwise would have been on our waiting list.
  • 2021 With COVID-19 restrictions still in place our hybrid model continue with remote support for the most vulnerable children. Playskill receives the good news that both applications to our two largest funders, Children in Need and the National Lottery Community Fund have been successful, securing funding for our groups for the next few years. Plans for our seventh group are put on hold while the pandemic continues. Funding for our Springboard project is renewed ensuring 10 more families are able to receive support every term.