20th Jan, 2019

Christmas lights stolen from respite unit for those with learning disabilities

Laura Kearns 11th Dec, 2018 Updated: 13th Dec, 2018

THE SPIRIT of Christmas is alive and well in Lillington.

After festive lights were stolen from outside a respite unit for people with learning disabilities the community came together to make Christmas wishes come true.

Staff at Mencap’s centre on Valley Road were ‘devastated’ when thieves took their lights on Monday (December 10) – just days after they had been put up.

Senior support worker Martina Shanahan took to Facebook to voice her anger and disappointment and say how upset services users – many who are wheelchair bound and cannot speak – would be.

She said: “A big thank you to the person or persons who stole the Christmas lights from the windows. Our respite unit is run for people with complex disabilities who enjoy the lights immensely and now don’t have any.”

But immediately Lillington residents began to get in touch and offer donations of lights. She has now arranged for some to be supplied and installed for free.

Martina said: “People have been incredible and extremely generous. We’re very touched and truly grateful. We’re a very small respite unit run by a relatively small charity and money is tight as it is for everyone at the moment. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone.”

The unit cares for people from a few days a week up to a fortnight and already has a sensory room onsite as staff say residents get so much enjoyment from watching the lights.

Youngsters from Round Oak School also use the centre weekly, and a bus transporting those with learning disabilities to and from college stops outside, and passengers ‘love’ watching the display.

Unit manager Dean Copeland said the outside lights had proved such a hit they were thinking of getting even more and making them a permanent feature in the garden.

But he fears security measures will need increasing to stop thieves targeting them again.

He told the Observer: “We are all disgusted by what happened and very disappointed. It makes it even worse that it is clearly signposted we are a charity and that it is a Mencap unit.

“A lot of people who use the service really benefit from the sensory experience. We already have a sensory room and are even developing the garden to be lit up and make a big impact for patients.

“This has made us think twice about what we do outside and made us very conscious. There are always staff around but adding extra security than we already have is an even further cost. Following this we might look at security measures in future.”

Visit www.heartofenglandmencap.org.uk to donate or find out more about the charity.

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