By Andrew Tong
Twenty-five children and their grandparents or carers were invited to the Trinity Theatre to watch Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella as a treat.
The Grandparents and Carers Support Group were given free tickets by the Tunbridge Wells cultural centre to see the musical.
The group, which meets once a month, was set up to support local families where the children are no longer being cared for by their parents.
Bethany, aged 16, commented on the show: “I liked how the animals were created and moved realistically. It reminded me of the Lion King’s puppetry,” while 13-year-old Terry said it was ‘thrilling and packed full of entertainment’.
Stephanie Salter, a member of the Early Help team for Kent County Council, founded the organisation seven years ago.
“I saw a real need to support carers who were unexpectedly raising children that were not necessarily their own,” she said.
“Predominantly these children are vulnerable as a result of the various experiences they’ve had at an early stage in life.
“Many carers in the group are grandparents who have become carers after retiring or at an older age. Many become ‘parents’ again unexpectedly, almost overnight.
She added: “As a result, activities like these are not feasible financially for these families, especially around Christmas.”
“Experiences like this are really important for them and they are very grateful for it. It is something that these families really relish and appreciate.”
“Time like this, where they can spend time with their families and with other families in similar positions, is really important for them.
“It’s lovely to see how these activities bring the family together and allow the children to grow in confidence.”
“The group is somewhere they can feel safe and understood. It’s mainly for social support, but these experiences really embellish their quality of life outside of the group too.”
Some 35 families are members of the group, which use the Little Forest Children’s Centre in Tunbridge Wells as their regular meeting spot. There is also a ‘rural session’ in Cranbrook.