Rockinghorse Extension Opens

Children and young people at a respite centre in Brighton enjoyed a special visit by the chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion, Tony Bloom, on Friday (15 July).

Mr Bloom officially opened Rockinghorse’s specially adapted and accessible extension at Brighton & Hove City Council’s Tudor House Respite Centre in Withdean. The short break service provides a vital resource for both children with learning and physical disabilities, and their families, allowing young people who visit to benefit from specialised equipment and activities that they might not have access to at home.

The chairman raised a staggering £150,000 by running the inaugural Brighton Marathon for the children’s charity last year.  The donation has enabled the building work to be completed on the Rockinghorse extension, as well as the purchase of a hoist, which will allow children who use wheelchairs to practice walking. It will be a rare and important opportunity for those children to walk around and reach the whole of a room, without the use of standing frames.

Clare Brunt, Practice Manager at Tudor House, said: “We’re hugely grateful to Rockinghorse and to Tony Bloom for their support with this project. When we initially said we wanted a conservatory, we never in our wildest dreams thought we could have something of this scale.

“Rockinghorse said they could help and, with Tony’s support, they turned what seemed like a very far-off dream into a reality.”

Talking at the launch, Clare described the day that Mr Bloom first visited the respite centre back in 2010, when he chose to run the marathon for Rockinghorse. She said: “Tony was chatting about football with one of the young people, who said that the Seagulls were rubbish and that he liked Liverpool. Fortunately, it didn’t put Tony off!”

The room is fully furnished with a range of multisensory and accessible equipment, including state of the art interactive flooring, which projects special effects directly onto the floor and intelligently monitors and responds to the position of the body. This aids the development of children with profound disabilities and allows them to enjoy interaction with display graphics, such as brushing aside leaves or stepping through water to create ripples.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, attended the launch, along with parents and staff from the centre and Rockinghorse Chief Executive, Claire Ross-Baker. Caroline Lucas commented after that it was “incredibly inspiring.”

The extension is also equipped with specialised bean bags to help with postural support and a touch screen television with software which will help children with limited vocabulary to communicate.

The council’s cabinet member for children and young people, Councillor Sue Shanks, said: “Improving services for children with disabilities is a key part of our plan to tackle inequality in the city. This has been a magnificent effort from Rockinghorse and from Tony Bloom personally and it’s going to make a big difference for dozens of local children.”