Destined, a Derry based organisation for adults and young people with learning disabilities, has received almost £700,000 in funding from the Big Lottery Fund.
Destined has received £692,933 for their five year Five Circles project which supports isolated families and children under 12 with learning disabilities living in the north Co. Derry area including the Limavady, Dungiven, Feeny, Claudy, Greysteel and Eglinton areas.
The project is working with children, families, schools, health care providers and the wider community to draw up personalised action plans to support families and children.
It is also working with community groups to get children and families involved in community activities and services.
It is one of nine projects awarded funding totalling £6,274,146 million across the North of Ireland on Thursday.
Destined is working with the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Rossmar Special School and Learmount Community Development Group in Park Village to deliver the project. They are providing family support including art, music, drama, cooking, learning, away days, friendship clubs, parents support groups and sibling activities.
“This is the first project of this kind in the area and it is very much needed,” said Dermot O’Hara, manager of Destined.
“In many cases, parents receive their child’s diagnosis and then they go home not knowing who to talk to. There is no support network, so often families don’t know anyone who has been there and who is maybe a few years ahead of them in their experiences.
“This Five Circles project is breaking down that isolation and helping parents to get out a bit more and meet other families.”
Dermot added: “The project also includes social activities to bring the child’s siblings together with brothers and sisters from other families to gain a better understand of their situation.”
The project is giving families information and training to improve their coping skills and self-confidence. It is also showing grandparents and the extended family how they can support the family and children.
“This project will be the start of a journey for many of the people who take part,” said Dermot. “These families’ lives will be much easier because they are receiving this support at this early stage.”
Joanne McDowell, Big Lottery Fund NI Director, said: “We are delighted to be funding these nine new projects through our Supporting Families programme. They will all strengthen families’ ability to cope with the challenges they face. We hope they will have a really positive impact on the lives of people who need our help the most.”