What is Thomas’s Fund?
Thomas’s Fund started in 2007, and became a charity in 2008. We provide music therapy across Northamptonshire (at home, in hospital or as part of continuing care) for children and young people (0-19) with life-limiting illnesses (or life-threatening conditions) and/or a disability which, for medical reasons, means they are too ill to attend school, or an Early Years setting, for extended periods. Pre-school children are assessed on an individual basis. These children are often very isolated and desperately need, or greatly benefit from our support.
Thomas: the inspiration
Thomas Smith died in 2004, aged 10, from a life-limiting neurodegenerative condition. He lived a short life, unable to attend school all year round but, thanks to his family, his life was packed with amazing experiences; activities and fun – a big part of which came through his love of music. Music therapy had a vital role to play in Thomas’s life. Had this charity existed, he would have benefited from being able to have music therapy at home, when he was too ill to attend school. At that time most school support was not available once children were no longer able to get to the school itself. The Fund was set up (and named after him) in order to, address this and provide this crucial service. Many children, like Thomas was, are too ill to travel far beyond their homes, and are unable to attend school or a setting for long periods. These children and young people now have Thomas’s Fund to help them.
Who set up Thomas’s Fund?
Jan Hall and Lucy Smith set up Thomas’s Fund, with the support of parents, friends and Music Therapists in the area. It was, and still is, supported by Northampton School for Girls, who generously donated specialist instruments (including the best music-related technology at the time) to get the Fund started. NSG was also extremely generous in helping to fund the initial therapy sessions. We are very grateful to Jessie’s Fund (jessiesfund.org.uk) too who supported us, both financially and with advice, when we were setting up the Fund.
Why was it needed?
As there is no children’s hospice in Northamptonshire, children and young people, like Thomas, had to travel out to Oxfordshire, Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire to have access to this valuable service and to music therapy, when not at school. Children and young people, like Thomas, are often in need of the emotional outlet and sensory stimulation that music therapy provides. Sessions enable them to express themselves through the medium of music (which can, often, be more accessible than the use of words). Since the formation of Thomas’s Fund, music therapy can now, more easily, be accessed at home when needed. The advantages of this were clearly demonstrated when Thomas’s younger brother, Harry (who had the same condition) was able to receive music therapy at home when he was very ill and unable to attend school.
What is music therapy?
Music Therapy is the creative and spontaneous use of music in the development of a therapeutic relationship between client and therapist. A variety of musical instruments and sounds are available, and clients are encouraged to make use of these and/or their voice during the therapy sessions. The client can express themselves through sound, silence, gesture and words. The role of the therapist is to listen, support, motivate, contain and respond musically or verbally to the client. The interactive music-making process is used in this way in order to promote communication and facilitate emotional expression, creativity and personal growth. Each therapy session develops according to the individual’s needs and the therapist’s approach. The client’s response determines the direction of the therapy. The aims of the therapy are not musical or educational but therapeutic. The music is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
Further benefits may include:
- Development of intentional communication and interaction
- Development of receptive and expressive language skills
- Reduced anxiety and increased relaxation
- Provision of an alternative outlet for emotion and enhancement of self-expression
- Increased sensory development, awareness and experiences
- An increased awareness of self and or others
- Increase in fine and gross motor skills
Music Therapy is a profession registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This assures the public that those who are qualified to practise it are competent to do so. Our therapists are highly trained Allied Health Professionals (AHPs), having gained a postgraduate qualification in music therapy (recognised by the HCPC), and they have a high level of musicianship and skill. The therapists are responsible for collating and responding to referrals; meeting with and assessing clients and working with parents, teachers and healthcare professionals. Thomas’s Fund’s therapists are managed by Esther Mitchell (our lead Music Therapist) and the trustees.
How we use donations
From the day that it was founded we, at Thomas’s Fund, have been determined to provide continued access to music therapy for identified children/ young people in Northamptonshire. The money that we manage to raise pays for our professional music therapists to work within homes, hospitals and the community throughout the year.
We employ professional music therapists (to provide the service) but, when it comes to the everyday running of the Fund, we rely, almost entirely, on volunteers. Any other costs that we face, in order to run the service efficiently; abide by current legislation; or to hold a fundraising event, are kept to an absolute minimum.
In 2020 we have worked hard to ensure that we can continue to provide and supplement our service (e.g. by providing online sessions, instruments and sensory packs) during the pandemic by taking every initiative to boost our donations in order to fund these additional changes.
We pride ourselves on the fact that people can donate to Thomas’s Fund (or
provide us with a grant) knowing that the children/ young people (and families) who use our service, will benefit the most.
Board of Trustees
Download our trustee’s reports, financial statements and annual reviews below. Read our report to find out what progress we’re making on our strategic priorities.