A History of P.E.S.T.S
Don't be put off by the
..it's nothing to do with Rentokil! P.E.S.T.S. stands for Parents of
Ealing Self-Help Training Scheme.
P.E.S.T.S. started life on 15th September 1981 and was the brainchild of Sue
Humphries, a very resourceful lady and parent of a disabled son.
In November 1980 Sue heard that a Portage scheme was being introduced in the
Borough. This is a method using parents to teach and stimulate their children
at home in a step by step fashion with the guidance of weekly visits by a
trained advisor. Sue and other parents who wanted to be actively involved in
their children's development requested Portage and were disappointed to learn
that the project was a pilot scheme and would be limited to a very few families
. Realistically it would be some considerable time before the service was
widely available and many children would miss out on this early stimulation
Sue was therefore motivated to start a self-help group where parents could,
with the help of professionals, develop individual programmes to use at home
with their children to help them reach their potential. The parents also felt
the need to meet together for mutual support and friendship, to exchange and
gather information and to feel less isolated.
Sue organised a social gathering in July 1981 at Heller House where parents and
interested professionals discussed the formation of P.E.S.T.S. Heller House was
Ealing's residential home for children with learning disabilities and at that
time was undergoing a change of emphasis towards younger children. The Officer
in Charge, with the blessing of Ealing's Social Services Department, offered
P.E.S.T.S. the use of Heller House with its playroom, equipment and commitment
of several staff members on Tuesday mornings. Other professionals, including
therapists and Ealing's specialist health visitor, expressed willingness to
contribute their skills to the group. Thus all the necessary components were in
place to launch P.E.S.T.S. on 15th September 1981.
Initially the week by week organisation and staffing of P.E.S.T.S. was carried
out by members of Heller House staff, 3 of whom were Portage trained.
Inevitably there was staff turnover and shortages at Heller House and it was
not possible for them to provide such an intensive level of support on a weekly
basis so P.E.S.T.S. needed to look to other avenues for help.
A Parent Committee, led by Sue Humphries as Chairperson, was by
now in place providing a firm organisational basis. In 1984, a decision was
made to employ 2 play workers. Many local professionals, including the
specialist health visitors, speech therapist, physiotherapist, voluntary sector
workers and Portage Co-ordinator, were demonstrating their support by visiting
on a regular basis. When Sue Humphries left the project in April 1985 she had
good reason to be proud of her achievements.
In 1989 P.E.S.T.S. experienced difficulties when many of the key people
involved in its organisation left. Also children were moving on from P.E.S.T.S.
much earlier owing to the range of other services available to them (e.g.
nursery centres, opportunity playgroups and earlier school entry). There was a
real danger of P.E.S.T.S. having to close down.
It was decided that P.E.S.T.S. should try to get funding for a Project
Co-ordinator to be responsible for the overall running of the group. With the
help of Contact a Family Ealing and the Specialist Health Visitor, a successful
application for funding was made to Capital Radio's Help a London Child and the
post was filled in September 1989. A new play leader, Portage trained, was also
employed and a new Parents' Committee elected. This new stability enabled
P.E.S.T.S. to grow from strength to strength and membership grew rapidly
resulting in increased running costs. P.E.S.T.S. was becoming a victim of its
In November 1994 the Charity Commissioners approved our application for
P.E.S.T.S. to become a registered Charity. This has enabled us to apply to
Charitable Trusts for financial support.
In 1995 P.E.S.T.S. developed its services further by setting up our Outreach
Project. This year also saw the publication of the first edition of P.E.S.T.S.
information booklet 'Special Needs', a very useful resource for parents and
Perhaps our greatest achievement financially was securing 2 National
Lottery grants for our Development Manager's post, The first in 1997 and the
second in 2000 , totalling 6 years' funding. This included some office expenses
and Social Services kindly offered suitable office space in Heller House's
Annexe. In January 2005 P.E.S.T.S. appointed a Project Manager made possible by
3 year funding by John Lyon's Charity. The post is currently financed by City
In 2007, when Councillor Michael Elliot was Mayor of Ealing, he chose
P.E.S.T.S. as one of his Charities and raised £6,250 which enabled us to
run additional play sessions. These have proved so popular with families that
we now run regular play sessions at Heller House on Tuesday and Friday mornings
during term time. Like Sue Humphries all those years ago P.E.S.T.S. lays great
emphasis on encouraging parents to be actively involved in their children's
development to help them reach their potential.
There is now a lot more support for children with disabilities or additional
needs in Ealing compared with 29 years ago, especially since the setting up of
Ealing's Service for Children with Additional Needs (ESCAN) at Carmelita House.
However P.E.S.T.S.' core principles have not changed in that time. They are
just as relevant and valuable today as in 1981.
In P.E.S.T.S.' first report written all those years ago a parent is quoted
saying how much she appreciated P.E.S.T.S. because "someone else was
genuinely interested in what she (her child) could do. At P.E.S.T.S. we can
talk over our children's achievements with the same pride as any other parent.
P.E.S.T.S. stopped the feeling of isolation. You discovered other parents with
similar problems - you weren't alone in the world" . Overcoming that
feeling of isolation is just as big a need today, if not bigger, so let us hope
that P.E.S.T.S. will be around to provide support and friendship for many years