A HAMSPHIRE charity has been named as one of Hart District Council Chairman’s charities of the year.

Specialist education provider Inclusion Hampshire, which supports young people with mental health and additional learning needs, was awarded with funding to support Casper, their Therapy Dog.

Casper is an 11 month old Cocker Spaniel cross, and has started his training in Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI). These interventions see an animal and a specialist facilitator working together to promote improvements in the physical, emotional and cognitive needs of individuals. These needs can include a number of areas that Inclusion learners may require additional support with such as self-esteem, anxiety, social understanding and interaction, regulation strategies, fine or gross motor-skills and re-integration to education.

Casper started his first introductory training session with PAWS pals programme at the end of July, a course which will also help up to 8 members of the Inclusion Hampshire team to work with him and become specialist facilitators. Owned by Inclusion Hampshire’s CEO, once he is trained, Casper will work across both sites – Inclusion Learning Centre based at Chineham and Inclusion College in Hook - to provide vital help and support to learners.

The charity was named as one of the recipients of the fund earlier this month, and the money will go towards Casper’s training and membership of PAWS,who will provide support, guidance and assessment to ensure animal welfare throughout the year. It will also support crucial aspects of his upkeep and wellbeing, his liability insurance and special hi-vis jacket to help him and learners know when he is working.

Inclusion chief executive, and proud owner of Casper, Cheryl Edwards has already seen the impact having him on site has had.

She said: "So many of our young people have responded so positively to Casper. Even before his training and work with our staff handlers has been completed, learners are starting to interact with him. He’s such a calming and settling influence and we’re really looking forward to completing the programme and being able to offer this additional support strategy to our learners."

Casper will continue to visit the centres whilst he is in training - which will help to support his interaction with the young people and familiarise him with the surroundings.

Ms Edwards continued: "We are absolutely delighted to have been selected and so grateful for the support of the chairman, Cllr Simon Ambler and his team at Hart District Council in choosing Casper as one of his charities this year, and we can’t wait to share updates of his progress and the impact he is having on the mental health and wellbeing of both learners and staff."

To learn more about the work of Inclusion Hampshire, visit www.inclusionhampshire.org.uk