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“The best thing…ever”

In my role as a volunteer I work with a Health Service Manager and a GP helping to improve life for those with disabilities and mental health needs. I’m there to represent the views of the public and 2014 has been a good year for us, I’ve been involved from start to finish in some very worthwhile projects.

We have, at very low cost to the NHS, had 2 apartment blocks, with 16 apartments in each, and 4 bungalows, built. The major part of the finance was undertaken through private enterprise with the contract stating that rents must be affordable for the residents.

These apartments have been designed for young adults with disabilities who are able to live by themselves with the reassurance of 24/7 care and support in the building for as long as it’s needed. The good news is we have seen a 50% reduction in the overall cost of care packages at Ropewalk Gardens home as a result of residents learning how to cope and look after themselves. One smart, energy efficient resident, has managed to save even more on costs by being extremely careful in switching off electrical items when not in use and is passing on the message to neighbours!
When the ‘cutting of the first sod’ took place at Ropewalk Gardens plans were still on paper, all the prospective residents attended and, even at that stage, were excitedly talking about where their furniture would go!

The site, for those with learning disabilities, was officially opened on 8th March 2014 by the Mayor, Councillor Peggy Elliot. All the apartments had residents allocated to them who took part in the opening ceremony. A marquee was erected in the garden where a celebratory tea party was enjoyed by all.

The second apartment block Willows House and the 4 bungalows in Willows Mews are both for young adults with physical and learning disabilities. This was officially opened on 22nd November 2014 by the deputy mayor Councillor Cliff Barber who was led down the street by a bag piper which not only drew in crowds but added to the happy atmosphere.  Prior to that the Valiant Public House had been the venue for a bake-off where great fun, as well as a shared learning experience, was enjoyed by the residents.

One lady I talked to told me “the best thing my daughter has ever done was moving in”.  It was great to see all the planning come to fruition and enjoy the happiness of all the residents who are very proud of not just their new homes but also their new independence.

Written by Dave McGuire, Community Forum Representative for the Disability and Mental Health Triangle

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