KIDS at 50

Welcome to KIDS’ 50th Anniversary

For 50 years, KIDS has worked alongside disabled children, young people and their families.

We’ve directly helped many thousands of children and young people, supported their families and worked creatively to provide support in the way that’s right for each individual We’re delighted to share examples of our achievements over five decades; stories from families we’ve supported, young people who have used our services, trustees who have guided our work and staff who have dedicated their working lives to championing the needs of disabled children.

We have a gallery showcasing some of the events we’ve organised and from some of our services over the years, messages of support, and a timeline (coming soon) illustrating a snapshot of some of our achievements in each of the decades.

As the anniversary year progresses we will be adding more content so please do check back regularly. And if you spot a gap or have a story to share we’d love to hear from you!



The early years

John Mulcahy was born in 1941 and raised in Cork. At 14 he went to Dublin to join the religious order of Christian Brothers and was professed at 18 as Brother Benedict.
He then trained in teaching and became a teacher in a church school in a deprived area of Dublin city, teaching there between 1961 and 1963.While teaching at the school, he became concerned about the development of a disabled child in one of his classes.
“He did not participate in lessons and he did not disrupt them. Nobody took any notice of him. No one there had the skills to help that boy and no one wanted to acquire them.”
Looking to improve communication with the child, John turned to the child’s mother for guidance. This sowed the seeds of working in partnership with parents and carers to enable disabled children and young people to develop their skills and abilities and to fulfil their potential.

The beginning of KIDS

In 1970 KIDS was founded by John with the aim of providing holidays for “deprived and handicapped children” in partnership with the parent of disabled child in his class.

KIDS was based on three guiding principles:

• that parents should be treated as equal partners
• that KIDS should work in conjunction with statutory services
• that KIDS should offer both practical and skilled support

John wrote to Lord Compton, Marquess of Northampton, for help and was invited to meet him in Kensington Gardens, the first of many meetings. Lord Compton offered some land to build a Centre at Easton Maudit, Northamptionshire, donated £20,000 towards the scheme and John raised the rest. This gala opening of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972 was held at the Palace Theatre and was attended by Sir Cliff Richard.

The total raised was £40,000 which went towards establishing the first KIDS service - a holiday centre in Northamptonshire, which was opened by The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and accommodated 12 children aged from 4-14.

KIDS as pioneer and champion for disabled children’s services

KIDS pioneered a number of approaches and programmes for disabled children and young people early on and these included:

• Adopting Lady Allen Hurtwood’s pioneering of Adventure playgrounds, KIDS opened Hayward Adventure Playground in Islington, London in 1975. KIDS have continued to lead the way in researching, advising and training mainstream play providers to include disabled children in their provision.
• Becoming one of the first organisations in the country to deliver Portage Home Learning in 1976. Portage was established in the USA and is a home visiting educational service for pre-school children with additional support needs, and their families.
• In Hull, KIDS created the National Independent Educational Advisory Service for parents of disabled children in response to the first Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice 1994. This led to the creation of Parent Partnerships and then Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) which now fulfil this role in every Local Authority across England.
• KIDS created the first on-line booking service to enable parents and disabled young people to book their own community based short break in 2009

Flourishing and growing 50 years later

In the late 1990s John was given an MBE in recognition of his work in establishing KIDS. He stepped down as Chief Executive in 1995, using his passion for KIDS to lead the fundraising team as Head of Fundraising until his retirement in 1997.
John’s foundation of KIDS began with a parent partnership and this partnership approach still drives how we work today. We work closely with parents and carers to empower them to enable their child to reach their potential and we also work alongside young people to enable them to have a say over policies and decisions that affect all disabled children, young people and families.