External Agencies

Disability Matters

What is Disability Matters?

Launched in February 2015, Disability Matters is an innovative suite of free resources to support those who work, volunteer or engage with disabled children and young people (from 0 to 25 years) and their families.  It seeks to address the barriers that make society disabling.  These challenges are faced by those with either physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Developed by disabled young people, parent carers and other experts, Disability Matters arranges individual modules into helpful bite-sized learning packages so that the training offered matches the needs of specific individuals, groups, organisations and sectors.  It offers practical advice about supporting disabled children, young people and their families to achieve the outcomes that matter to them. Click the link below to visit the website

Disability Matters


  • To raise the profile of disability within the UK and internationally.
  • To increase awareness of the issues that affect the everyday lives of disabled children, young people and their families.
  • To help people who work, volunteer or engage with disabled young people identify creative and practical ways to overcome the social barriers that challenge them in their everyday lives.
  • To equip those who work, volunteer or engage with disabled young people to support them as effectively as they can to achieve what matters most to them.
  • To help employers to improve the ways in which they work with and respond to disabled young people and their families by supporting their workforce – both paid and voluntary – to implement creative solutions to identifiable barriers.

How does the Disability Matters programme work?

Disability Matters offers online learning sessions (mostly 20-40 minutes) on a wide range of topics to help people reflect, challenge and change their own fears, idea, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours towards disabled people.  All the sessions can be completed as a ‘one off’ or ‘stand-alone’. Alternatively, you can sign up to the Disability Matters learning community and complete several sessions or a Learning Package that can be recorded in a personal learning account. Creating an account allows you to keep a record of your learning and to print certificates to evidence your learning.  The more actively you reflect on the stories and materials in Disability Matters, the better equipped you will become to welcome, include, empower and support disabled children and people of all ages.

Why do we need Disability Matters?

Disabled children and young people (from 0 to 25 years) and their families face many barriers in their everyday lives; from social events and sports to accessing health services and coping at school, college or work.  To bring about the changes we think will make a positive, practical and lasting difference, we need to help those who work, volunteer or engage with disabled children and young people to gain confidence they need to be as effective as they can and want to be. 

The Challenge Facing Society Today

Here are some statistics that show why we need Disability Matters:

  • 70% of workers in the UK feel they need to learn more about disability for their work
  • 61% of people in the UK say they are not confident communicating with a child who is disabled
  • 80% of people in the UK think business organisations should provide more training to ensure their staff feel confident about working with disabled people
  • 180 disability hate crimes are committed every day in the UK

We believe that people across the UK are looking to change society for the better on disability. Disability Matters wants to make a significant contribution to the way in which the UK challenges current attitudes, fears and insecurities about disability.  Disabled children and young people, their families, friends and other carers should receive the support they need on the issues that matter to them.

Happy Talk Appeal

What is the Happy Talk Appeal?

Portland Academy is a Secondary Special School for 11-19 year olds with severe and profound multiple learning disabilities. Many of the students rely upon Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC). The term AAC is used to describe different methods that can be used to help people with disabilities communicate with others. As the term suggests, these methods can be used as an alternative to speech or to supplement it. AAC can include gesture, body language and signing systems such as Makaton. It also includes the use of symbol picture books, objects and low and high technology communication aids.

Our Happy Talk Appeal was launched in February 2011 to help us raise funds to   purchase high technology communication aids for students who struggle to talk to others. These vary in cost from £1,000 through to £13,000!

To date we have raised £20,278.  This money has been used to purchase communication aids for 4 students. We continue to need to raise funds as there is an increasing need for such devices.

We have raised the money is various ways, including:

  • A grant from the Big Lottery Fund
  • £5000 donation from Sopra Group, based at Doxford International Business Park
  • Donations of varying amounts from individuals
  • Raffles
  • Social evenings
  • Selling school photographs
  • Cake sales at local businesses (T-mobile at Doxford Technology Park) and schools (St Roberts of Newminster) and within Portland Academy
  • Sponsored events, such as the Sunderland 10k.

Our most recent social evening was in September. Local up and coming comedian, Lost Voice Guy, performed at the event. He was well received and, as well as making us laugh a lot, he helped raise the awareness of how important communication aids are and highlighted the positive impact they can have on a person’s life.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the appeal so far. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of people in difficult financial times. You have helped to change the lives of several students for the better!

If would like to support the appeal in any way, please contact the Friends at Portland group on 0191 5536050.


Transition Street

Transition Team,

2nd Floor Corridor,

Newcastle Road,

Monkwearmouth Hospital,

Tyne and Wear.

SR5 1NB.

Tel: 03031231145 (ask for health transition team).

The following article is provided by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

If you have a child with learning disabilities between the ages of 14-25 years of age, living in Sunderland, are you aware that we can provide support and advice in transition between child and adult health services?

The transition team is a small team of learning disabilities nurses and a support worker, who are based at Hillview Clinic in Sunderland. At present we are available from Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9am-5pm. We can offer flexible working outside these hours, depending on individual circumstances.  We link into education, social and health services within Sunderland, to assist in your child’s transition between child and adult health services.

Support we can provide:-

Individual health assessment, towards the development of a health action plan and the completion of a heath transition plan, as part of the person centred agenda.

Collaboration with education, social and voluntary sectors towards the development of a person centred approach.

Advice, support and guidance re transition process.

Support to gp annual health checks from 14 years of age.

Range of Services we work with:-

Schools, colleges, Connexions, CORA, City Hospitals Sunderland, Children’s and Young Persons team, Learning Disability Liaison Nurse, child and adult social services, NTW Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Teams.

For more information on health transition in Sunderland contact us on :- 03031231145 or email dave.hutchinson@ntw.nhs.uk or denise.geary@ntw.nhs.uk .

Sunderland Support Guide

Information for parents/carers of disabled children and young people


This guide has been designed in order to assist parents/carers of disabled children and young people to easily find and access information, support or services that are available to them. Wherever appropriate, disabled children and young people should be able to use social and leisure activities and support services on the same basis as any other child in Sunderland. Sometimes disabled children and young people may need additional support and where ever possible, this is provided directly through the facility they wish to use, rather than through a separate assessment or using a more specialist service. It is often worth asking what help can be provided for your disabled child or young person. A number of disabled children and young people have more complex needs and require a range of specialist support to help them live at home with their families and participate in their local communities.

Autism in Mind Contact a Family
Disability North Employment – Carers and Employment
Financial Help and Benefits Health – NHS Direct
Health – NHS Help Card Helplines
Leisure – Cinema Exhibitors Association Card Mental Health Matters
Network for Disabled Children Specialist Services
Sunderland ADHD Support Group Sunderland Carers Centre
Sunderland, Washington & Coalfields Parent/Carer Council Sunderland Counselling Service
Transport Universal Services
Youth Information