A state-of-the-art respite centre for people with learning disabilities was officially opened in North Tyneside on Tuesday.
Designed and developed with help from local family carers, North Tyneside Council has created Queensbridge Respite Centre in Longbenton to offer specialist respite accommodation for adults with a learning disability.
The new facility completes a wider £2million council project that has also seen a specialist bungalow and a terrace of seven affordable homes all built in the same area.
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn said: "I am delighted we have been able to provide this much-needed respite centre and redevelop the area as part of our multimillion-pound investment work across the borough.
"I must thank all the carers who helped us to get Queensbridge Respite just right. When developing specialist housing or facilities, it is important that we work with those who will with use them, or their families and carers, to make sure it’s exactly what they need and want.
"The respite facility provides the opportunity to have an enjoyable break, socialise and take part in different activities that someone might not normally have the chance to do – all while receiving support from a fully-trained, caring and approachable member of staff.
"It also means their family carer is able to have a break too. Carers do a truly remarkable job and we do all we can in North Tyneside to make sure they receive the help they need."
The facility includes a communal lounge and dining area, a kitchen, laundry and three bathrooms with an adjustable bath and two walk-in showers to cater for all needs and preferences. Ceiling hoists and tracks have been fitted in all bedrooms, as well as in the living and dining room, to support people with a physical disability.
There's a unit with its own bedroom, living room and dining area for those who prefer to be alone and, when not in use, it also provides a quiet space and sensory room for others to use. A large and easy accessible landscaped garden, complete with sitting areas and raised flower and herb beds, also offers an outside space for people to socialise and relax in.
Heather Riley and her husband Richard care for their 30-year-old daughter, Helen. Heather is part of a group of family carers who work with the council to help to improve disability services in North Tyneside.
The steering group was heavily involved in the development and design of Queensbridge Respite Centre. Speaking on behalf of the group, Heather said: "We are very happy with the centre and having such an input into its design means it really suits the needs of the people who use it.
"It's very spacious which makes it much easier for those in a wheelchair to move around, but from my point of view, one of the most important things is that the centre is owned by the council so we know it will be looked after and respite care will continue.
"My daughter has been to stay already and loved it; she laughed throughout her stay and wasn't fazed about being in a new place. It also meant my husband and I were able to have a short break ourselves and visit our other daughter at her home in Gibraltar."
The centre is on the site of the former Somervyl Court sheltered accommodation building, which has been replaced as part another council-led house building project. The £300million North Tyneside Living project will see more than 920 modern, independent-living homes for people aged over 60 created at 26 locations across the borough, by 2017.
For more about the respite centre and the services it offers, call (0191) 643 7885.