In the run-up to the final consideration of the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords and last Wednesday's budget announcement, Andrew Lansley, MP for South Cambridgeshire, took time out from his busy governmental duties to see for himself the life-changing work being done by Dragonmobility, a Cambridge-based social enterprise.
Andrew Lansley MP supports Dragonmobility, a world-leading Cambridge social enterprise
Dragonmobility is a client of Axiom-e, the well-established provider of part-time Finance Directors to growing companies. Dragonmobility's directors all live in Andrew Lansley's constituency.
Since 2005, Dragonmobility, led by Dan Everard, a gifted design engineer, has designed, manufactured and supplied innovative powerchairs for severely disabled people. Dan's designs - featured in the London Science Museum - have pioneered a revolution in the development of powered mobility since 1981, particularly for children.
Ruth Everard, the company's General Manager, explained that “The dedicated Dragonmobility team offers far more to our customers than conventional wheelchair suppliers. By sharing a lifetime of experience in overcoming disability, many users are inspired and encouraged to achieve more than some might expect of them.”
Families have travelled to Cambridge from all over the UK, USA, Australasia and parts of Europe to benefit from the unique quality of mobility which Dragonmobility powerchairs provide.
Andrew met Mackie Reed, a two-year old from Kent, who has been using a SnapDragon powerchair since he was 22 months old. The importance of enabling disabled children to experience really effective independent mobility at this early age is now widely recognised. This avoids delays and damage to psychological and social development and gives children the incentive to succeed in life.
Mackie's parents commented to Andrew that “We are amazed at the way the SnapDragon has been designed for use by somebody as young as Mackie.... We have really noticed the change in Mackie's development since he started using his SnapDragon.”
The employees at Dragonmobility showed Andrew around the workshop, where he could see how each Dragon and SnapDragon is made and how their seating and controls are bespoke to suit individual needs.
In the last financial year, a record number of users received these powerchairs, which do so much more than go from A to B. Andrew was impressed that the seats can reach floor-level and that height can be adjusted easily while moving around for better access to ordinary furniture. The powerchairs manoeuvre as well outdoors as in, and can be controlled from a standing position to allow children to get the best of both mobility and therapy at the same time as looking their friends in the eye or giving their parents a hug. Seats and controls are customised to allow people with the severest disabilities to control their own movement in a natural and intuitive manner.
Dragonmobility's expertise has been acknowledged by health professionals and parents worldwide who have searched hard for the best and found it right here in Cambridge, UK. The cost-savings of what this project can do for a person with a severe disability were acknowledged, both for individual families and for the public purse.
Ken Dickson, Dragonmobility's Finance Director (and Managing Director of Axiom-e), explained that “The majority of the funds to pay for our chairs come from charities and families and friends . Although Dragonmobility is weathering the current economic climate, we, in common with many other small manufacturing companies, find it challenging to access reasonable commercial funding for growth. What we do is much admired by financial institutions, yet it is left to ordinary people in need, like a family currently raising funds for their triplets, who all need SnapDragons, to actually achieve it. ”
It is hoped that the changes made in Wednesday's budget to the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme will encourage banks to support more companies like Dragonmobility, who need access to finance to do the level of business their market demands.
Sheila Glasswell, a trustee of the The Turbo Trust, one of the charities that supports Dragonmobility's work with grants for individuals, commented “It is very heartening that so many ordinary people find time and money to support our applicants. We know of many children and adults who long to have the means to transform their lifestyles by having such fantastic equipment. Our supporters can see clearly the enormous value of being so independent, and our applicants are so grateful to them. But there is always far more need to be met.”
The directors expressed their thanks to Andrew for his interest, which they hope will help secure financial support for the future benefit of many more users.
Andrew Lansley CBE MP said: "I was immensely impressed to see the innovation and engineering quality of the Snapdragon and other designs. What came through strongly was how Dragonmobility see the person, not the disability, and are committed to restoring the opportunity for all their clients to have all the mobility they want."
Axiom-e is an independent strategic financial management consultancy which provides business advice focussed on strategic, financial, accounting, administrative and general management issues. We work as part-time finance director and/or company secretary for our growing portfolio of clients which includes commercial organisations, social enterprises and charities.