When the Rory Foundation was established, initiatives like this one were exactly the type of projects we wanted to really get behind…I have no doubt children with a learning disability and their families will benefit from this inspirational project. I am really delighted that my Foundation has been able to get behind Mencap on this exciting and important project at Newtownbreda – Rory McIlroy

Mencap was established in Northern Ireland in 1965 and each year they support thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they choose. Mencap NI work in partnership with people with a learning disability to fight to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities.

In 2013, Mencap NI learned that their former home Segal House, was no longer fit for purpose. In 2014, Mencap NI launched their Big Step Forward Appeal to raise £1.7m to build, equip and run the new centre by early 2016. The Rory Foundation pledged £250,000 in match funding both in 2015 and in 2016 to help finish the Big Step Forward Appeal. The target amount was raised thanks to the generosity of local businesses, combined with individual donations, like the one from the Rory Foundation and the new Mencap NI centre opened in March 2016.

The first of its kind for the UK learning disability charity, the opening of the new centre is a radical step for the future of children and young people with a learning disability and their families across Northern Ireland. The centre will serve as a new model for early intervention services across the UK and Ireland and provide much needed support services for families and young adults with a learning disability. At the heart of the new building is the Children’s Centre, a nursery for 2-4-year-old children with a learning disability, autism or developmental delay, many of whom have multiple, profound and complex needs. The centre has given Mencap NI the scope to do so much more, by offering children like Niamh and their families the support they need in a fully equipped building of the standard they deserve.

Despite being so severely disabled the staff never defined Niamh by her disabilities. Through touch, taste and smell, the team found ways to help her blossom. They brought her wee personality out. She came on leaps and bounds. It took her a long time to smile and giggle. She did that beautifully – Niamh’s mum, Oonagh.

Our new centre will allow us to develop and grow our early years and early intervention services and help us accomplish our vision of reaching more children and young people with a learning disability across Northern Ireland. We will then use this experience and body of evidence to develop further programmes and explore how best these techniques can be successfully implemented beyond our Mencap Centre. We will invest in a new range of out-reach family support services that help parents develop the skills they need to support their child’s development. We are delighted to officially open our doors and make this important step for both Mencap and the learning disability community across these islands – Margaret Kelly, Director, Mencap in Northern Ireland