Autism services in Belfast have received a boost as Helping Hands Autism Support Group in East Belfast celebrates the opening of a new ‘Autism Resource Centre’ following funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Space & Place programme.
The new facility which Helping Hands had envisioned for a number of years finally became reality when the project ultimately received funding of over £380,000 from the Big Lottery funded Space & Place programme thanks to National Lottery players, enabling them to completely transform a former Trust building in Dundonald.
The project also received funding of £85,100 from the Department for Communities, and additional support from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
Helping Hands supports over 130 families on a weekly basis providing services for families, children and young people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
It had been operating out of three separate buildings prior to achieving funding which will see it increase its capacity to help more people and provide additional services to families where a child has received a diagnosis of ASD, and also to those awaiting diagnosis.
Caroline Birch Chairperson of Helping Hands Autism Support Group said:
We are delighted to be able to offer Northern Ireland’s first Autism Resource Centre and hope we can deliver new activities and programmes that can help children and young people who are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Through the Space & Place Programme we have been able to purchase and refurbish the building which has been furnished with rooms that are specifically designed for ASD children and young people.
“As parents, we have a vast knowledge of the support that is desperately needed by many families who are feeling isolated and stressed. This truly is a dream come true for Helping Hands members and those who are waiting on support for their families,” said Caroline.
Michael Hughes Space & Place Co-ordinator said: “The Space & Place Consortium is delighted to see the launch of this new Autism Resource Centre which will provide a vital facility for the community.
“Knowing the huge unmet demand demonstrated by the group through their application to the programme, I am confident that many more children and families will have their lives improved as a result of the Programme’s investment alongside the hard work and dedication of Helping Hands which has made this Centre possible,” said Michael.
Big Lottery Fund Northern Ireland Chair Julie Harrison said: “We are delighted to see how Helping Hands Autism Support Group has worked with local people to develop this new centre. This has been made possible thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, and we are looking forward to seeing the difference this will make to the lives of local people.”