Rafa Benitez, Mayoress of Wirral (Sue Mitchell), Montse Benitez, Mayor of Wirral (Cllr Dave Mitchell) and Robin Bush – Chief Executive Wirral Autistic Society
After two years of planning and with £617,000 raised, Wirral Autistic Society’s (WAS) project to build state-of-the-art living accommodation for people with severely autism is finally underway at Raby Hall in Bromborough, Wirral.
WAS is an award-winning provider of autism services employing 800 people. Its Lifetime Appeal, which is funding the building project, needs to raise £935,000 to complete the build. This is the first phase of a ten year project to modernise all the residential facilities on the Raby site.
Day one of the build was marked by a ceremonial ground-breaking attended by the Mayor of Wirrall, Cllr Dave Mitchell, and his wife Sue. The engagement took place on the final day of the Mayor’s year in office.
Also attending were former Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez and his wife Montse, who have a home in Wirral and whose Montse Benitez Foundation supports local charities.
Cllr Mitchell said, “This is a fantastic and much-needed project which will benefit residents, families and staff.”
Montse Benitez said, “The foundation is very proud to support the exceedingly good and dedicated work of the Wirral Autistic Society. Autism has such a huge impact on all the family. Wirral should be very proud to have such a fantastic facility on its doorstep.”
The high tech building will be a lifelong home for eight people who have autism but also severe communication and sensory difficulties. Raby Hall, which will overlook it, has been providing residential accommodation for people with autism and complex needs since 1977, but the building was never designed to be autism-specific and is in need of modernisation. The new build is the first phase of a project to modernise the entire site.
The new building will take six months to complete and will incorporate many features designed to create a calm, nurturing environment. Features will include:
- ‘Mood’ lighting, which can be used to ‘paint’ rooms different colours and help calm or stimulate a resident. Pink and purple have been found to be positive colours and grey to be calming, although all people respond differently.
- Wide corridors reduce claustrophobia and crowding.
- Under-floor heating and integrated window blinds mean that light and temperature can be adjusted. This is important as autistic people can be extremely sensitive to light and heat.
- Easy access to open air and the grounds, which are in a rural setting. This will help residents control anxiety levels.
- Modern laundry and kitchen facilities, which residents can learn to use with the help of their carers.
- En-suite bathrooms to ensure privacy, dignity and independence for residents.
One of the building’s future residents will be Thomas Whelan, 23, who has been living at Raby Hall for five years. His mother, Becky, said, “Thomas is being looked after by fabulous, dedicated people. We are so excited that he’ll be moving into the new building. It’s going to be wonderful for him – he’ll be more independent and he’ll still be amongst friends from Raby Hall. It was exciting to attend the launch event, after all this time fundraising. I can’t wait to see the first bricks going in.”
Robin Bush, Chief Executive of WAS, said, “Good quality residential accommodation for people with autism is in incredibly short supply right across the country and yet it is well documented that the environment in which they live can have a profound impact on their health and well-being. We want to create a home for life, where carers can help the residents build their confidence and self-esteem, achieving the best possible quality of life in an environment which can be adapted to their individual needs. We see this is a lasting legacy which can be passed on to future generations in Wirral.”
For more information on the Lifetime Appeal click here.