SIPTU condemns the unacceptable withdrawal of funding from Art Ability the renowned Belfast project which promotes social integration between people with physical and learning disabilities and their abled bodied peers from both sides of the community in North and West Belfast.
SIPTU Community activist Albert Hewitt and acting Chairperson of the group, slammed the decision to remove funding from this vital service stating,
“This cruel cut has targeted the most vulnerable in our society and must be resisted by all socially responsible people. Our Trade Union has written to the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety seeking this decision be reversed with immediate effect. We have also sought an explanation as to why this decision was made and why the centre was only provided with one week’s notice of the termination of funding.”
Adelaide Haddock - who is wheelchair bound herself and mother of Nikita aged 13 who has autism ,and who has been attending the Art Ability centre for the past 6 years has said the fall out of the cut off to funding has already had a impact not just on Nikita but on our whole family.
“Nikita doesn’t understand why she can’t go to the centre anymore. Nikita asked her family for donations and raised £50! She feels this is enough to allow her and her friends to go to Art Ability”.
“I want the Minister Mr. McGimpsey to explain to me and my daughter who has autism what justifiable reason does he have to take away hers and our families’ only means of respite, and the chance for Nikita to interact with other children with the same needs and connect with them on the same level. No-one has told us what they are doing to replace this respite, and I as a parent was not made aware that it was going to be stopped”.
Artability was established to continue the work of Shankill Phab Creative Arts Centre, which has been in operation since 1989. promoting social integration between young people with physical and learning disabilities and their able bodied peers from both communities of North and West Belfast. They undertake this by encouraging participation in the arts through various projects operating within the centre. They work with 12 children per day assisting 60 children per week.
The aim of this project is to help young people with physical and learning disabilities and those who are disadvantaged through bullying and who would otherwise be isolated and excluded from street play after school hours. Within the Afterschool’s Project the participants are encouraged to interact on collaborate projects and individual activities using a wide range of artistic materials . Based on the Very Special Arts Programme from America they design sessions that use art and crafts as a tool for expression and communication within a creative, fun and safe environment.
Through this project the participants also have the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of activities such as trips out, networking with other Community Centres, Animation, DJ Workshops, Drama, the Computer Club, external art projects plus many more games and arts activities.
This project offers a free pick-up and drop-off service from the participant’s home. The Centre's transport is wheelchair accessible and has Care Worker with the young people in the Bus at all times to Supervise the participants. This enables parents who do not have their own transport to ensure their children have access to this invaluable service.
“We will be meeting with all the local MLA candidates and have invited them to the three public meeting’s organised by SIPTU across Belfast to advise them of this deplorable act, the impact on the families and the need for action to protect our vital Communality Sector from savage attacks by government bodies and those who feel it acceptable to target the most vulnerable in our society” added Mr Hewitt.
For Additional Comments or Quotes please contact Teri Cregan 07824877000