Old school site transformed into disabled centre

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with (left to right) Sophia Magee, Paige Foster, Logan McClean and Carter Wilton in their brand new play room in the Mencap Centre
First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with (left to right) Sophia Magee, Paige Foster, Logan McClean and Carter Wilton in their brand new play room in the Mencap Centre

The Province’s two leading politicians have jointly opened a centre for youngsters with learning disabilities.

First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness attended the official opening of the £4.6m Mencap Centre in Belfast, along with the Health Minister Simon Hamilton.

The centre had already been up and running since January.

The site – which is where Newtownbreda Primary School used to be based, in the south-east of Belfast – was bought by charity Mencap from the education authorities in July 2014.

The school itself had closed five years earlier, and was then demolished.

A statement announcing the official opening said the site will offer services including a brand new children’s nursery, treatment rooms, a hub for young people to get involved with arts and cultural programmes, and more.

Mrs Foster said: ”The opening of this state-of-the-art centre today reaffirms our commitment to addressing and removing the obstacles that people with disabilities face to ensure they have the same equality of opportunity and equality of treatment enjoyed by others in society.

“I am immensely proud of Northern Ireland and I want ensure that our young people and adults with a learning disability receive the support they need to reach their full potential and to live the life they want to lead.”

The Department of Health put £2.5m towards the project, which Mr McGuinness described as a “major asset that will transform and improve the lives of everyone who comes through the door”.

Mr Hamilton said the funding provided from his department “has been fundamental in making it a reality”.