£1,300,000 Learning Disability Centre in Derry Officially Opened

Developing the skills, confidence and the social inclusion of people with a learning disability has been given a massive boost with the opening of a new purpose built centre located on the banks of the river Foyle.

The project, which has been promoted and delivered by Destined is the culmination of seven years of planning. The new Centre, includes a reception, training rooms, café, restaurant and fully equipped kitchen, creche and nursery and will provide services to people with learning disabilities from birth to old age. The Centre has as its primary aim to enhance the inclusion of people with a learning disability with the wider community which they live in and breaking down stigma and prejudices that impact on their daily lives and that of their families.

The project was supported by a range of funders including The National Lottery Community Fund, who provided an initial grant of £1,000,000 of funding raised by National Lottery players, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Urban Villages fund, Ulster garden Villages fund, Ulster Community Investment Trust, Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Department for Communities.

Dermot O’Hara from Destined said ‘We are delighted to be at the stage that we are finally opening our new Centre, there have been many challenges along the way. We are now in the position with our modern Centre to deliver a community wide social inclusion programme for people with learning disabilities throughout the North West region.

Michael Hughes Space & Place Programme Co-ordinator said: “As one of our three Flagship projects the Learning Disability Centre is yet another example of how the Programme has supported a community to define itself and to bring forward a development that has totally transformed an underused space within the city of Derry. This new Centre is a fitting tribute to the Space & Place Programme as even in its planning and development there have been many examples of enhanced community connectivity and an increase in cohesion, sharing and respect. The group and the community are to be commended for demonstrating the power of a community development project that has consulted extensively that has led to a huge level of community support and which will provide a valuable asset for not only people with a learning disability across the North West but also the wider community.

Welcoming the new Centre Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said: “I am absolutely delighted to see the delivery of this important project for Derry and Strabane. The new Centre will provide a range of vital services and facilities for people of all ages and abilities, bringing people together in what will be a vibrant and welcoming shared community space. “Thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund for their recognition and support, and well done to all those who had the vision, ambition and commitment to bring this project to fruition.”

Mark Browne, Director of Strategic Policy, Equality and Good Relations at The Executive Office responsible for the Urban Villages Initiative said, “It is great to see this invaluable project completed and ready to support people with learning disabilities in the Urban Village area and further afield. I am delighted that the £105,000 investment by the Urban Villages Initiative has facilitated the renovation of the Foyle Valley Railway Museum into an accessible hub for Destined members, their families and visitors. Now that the space is DDA compliant the museum will be run by members, extending the capacity of the organisation to impact member’s lives for the better through training and social inclusion.

Paul Carland, the Housing Executive’s Social Enterprise Liaison Manager, said: “The Housing Executive, through its Social Enterprise Programme, was delighted to be involved in this fantastic project in partnership with Destined. The restaurant will provide a new service to the local community whilst also creating employment and training opportunities for Destined members. With such a fantastic new building we wish Destined all the very best in their newest social enterprise.”

The Department for Communities’ vision is one of ‘Supporting People, Building Communities, Shaping Places’. The development of this new facility and the work being taken forward by Destined is an important step towards realising this vision whilst also providing the learning disability community living in the Derry and Strabane Council area with a dedicated resource that will help to empower them, teach them the skills they need and make them more self-confident so that they can play a fuller role within their local community. DfC welcomes this important and inspirational project.

Eileen Mullan, NI Committee Member for The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We believe this wonderful new space, which has been made possible thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, will make a real difference to the lives of many local people by providing a space for them to come together and improve the area that they live in.