Children’s charity POP Essex to fill much needed gap

After PARC Essex’s sudden closure earlier in the year, a children’s charity sized hole opened up across Essex and hundreds of families were left in limbo. To try and fill this gap and provide a much-needed service to local families, Matt Carr has launched POP Essex (Power of Play), a charity that offer a safe and fun environment for children and young adults with SEND needs.


We caught up with Matt to find out a little bit more about POP Essex, who now have around one hundred families on their registers, and how the charity is working to provide much needed services to the people of Braintree and further afield.


Speaking to us Matt explained: “We set our group up because PARC Essex closed suddenly in the middle part of June and over the summer holidays we were pretty much hitting the panic button as our son has very complex special needs. We got a bunch of volunteers and created our own little group and originally we were going to try and keep PARC Essex going as it was, but it just wasn’t feasible. The only way we were going to be able to keep any sort of service going was to set up our own not-for-profit so that’s what we’ve done.”


POP Essex haven’t been able to gain access to the purpose-built facilities at PARC Essex yet, but have been supported by Braintree District Mencap who allow the group to cheaply rent their building on Saturdays.


The charity has also been supported by The Phoenix bar in Braintree who will host events on their behalf in the future and also have an invisible shot available on the menu as a donation. They have also been supported by Pickles Playhouse in Witham who are hosting an array of exciting events over the next 12 months.


POP Essex hosts weekend sessions on Saturday for ages 0-10 from 9:30am-12:30am, and ages 11-19 from 1:30pm-4pm, and is looking at introducing mid-week sessions now kids are back at school.


Speaking to us about the difference places like PARC Essex, and now POP Essex, can make to families’ everyday lives, Matt explained: “For us, it’s having somewhere to go where you’re not judged, we know from our own experience it’s very difficult to take our son for a day out sometimes, you can’t just get in the car and go somewhere there’s so many things you have to plan around, he’s severely autistic and completely nonverbal so for us a day out is a gamble.

“We know that we’re not the only ones, so having somewhere to go where everyone is in the same boat, parents can talk to each other, the kids can have as much or as little social interaction as they like.”


The sessions have only been running for roughly two months at the time of writing, averaging 20-25 families attending their Saturday sessions, but like many new charities the focus is on building up POP Essex, fundraising and spreading awareness of the charity.


To find out more and get in touch with POP Essex, make your way over to @PowerofPlayEssex on Facebook or email [email protected].

by Callum Knowles

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