Building a better future for children with a learning disability

Date published: 11 November 2015

Health Minister Simon Hamilton has said that a new Mencap facility will, when complete, make a big difference to children with a learning disability.

Simon Hamilton

The Minister was speaking as he visited the new Mencap capital project in Belfast today to view progress in building the new facility for children with a learning disability, their families and carers. The building was partly funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) through a £2.5million capital grant.

In commending the organisation for bringing the project forward on time and within budget, Minister Hamilton said: "I am delighted to visit this wonderful new building and to see at first hand that the project is progressing extremely well, coming in on cost and within timescales initially set.

"I am pleased that my Department, along with other sectors and the generosity of the Northern Ireland public, has been able to assist Mencap in bringing this vision to reality.

"Mencap continue to work in partnership across all sectors to improve outcomes for children with a learning disability and its work and vision in developing this inspirational facility is to be commended."

The new facility will provide a comprehensive range of support services, including:

  • a brand new children’s nursery, providing increased places for up to 75 children aged 2 - 4 years, giving them the very best start in life. The nursery will have a series of play zones to allow for structured development for children with learning disability;
  • treatment and activity rooms for specialists working in physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and social work, allowing for most routine medical/family appointments for children with a learning disability to be met on-site;
  • a Changing Places room, kitted out with the highest specification equipment to allow people with complex needs to be changed in a clean and safe environment;
  • an outdoor play area with a large sensory garden to allow play, physical activities, teaching and story-telling, kitted out with the latest in play equipment to cater for children of all abilities and needs;
  • a bespoke, covered play area, giving the children access to fresh air for play and activity all year round;
  • a Hub for young people with a learning disability to engage in arts and cultural programmes, build friendships and relationships and learn and relax.

The Minister continued: "The community aspect of this project, with staff engaging with the surrounding community, not only to assist in the progression of the build but to establish a shared space approach, will embed the facility at the heart of the community.

"I have no doubt that this excellent new building with the facilities and services provided, will enhance joint working between the HSC and the voluntary sector and will be a marvellous resource in the years ahead."

It is anticipated that the new facility will open in Spring 2016. 

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has provided £2.5million capital funding to assist in the development of the new Mencap facility.
  2. Mencap is a UK wide organisation, founded in the 1950's, which has pioneered challenging, and changing, attitudes on learning disability for over 60 years. It has championed people with a learning disability living outside hospital environments with greater educational opportunities at all ages; pathways to employment and/or meaningful day opportunities; community-based accommodation; improving life chances and enhanced independence; choice and control over their lives.
  3. In Northern Ireland, Mencap is the leading voluntary organisation working alongside and representing the interests of, people with a learning disability and their families by delivering a wide range of practical support services, and helping people with a learning disability to speak out about the things that are important to them.
  4. Media enquiries to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0074, or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.
  5. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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