A Limavady mum whose son uses specialist services provided by a project for kids living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) has described its impending closure as “devastating”.
The Phoenix project, based in Coleraine, says it is the only organisation offering such specialist services in Northern Ireland outside Greater Belfast.
Up to now, it has relied on funding from the National Lottery and Children in Need.
However, Phoenix staff have been informed this funding will not be provided after April 2016 and the service will close its doors by April 29.
“Unless we secure statutory funding, we will, therefore, be unable to offer any support,” said Helen Christie, from Phoenix.
The project, which began in 2008, provides support for dozens of young people, aged between 8 and 19, attending weekly sessions. That includes 16 from Derry and Strabane and 267 from the Causeway area including Limavady, Dungiven and Ballykelly areas, as well as 21 parents attending weekly programmes. They have 16 families on their waiting list.
Faye Ferguson’s son, Josh, has been attending Phoenix since the new year.
The Limavady mum said that, when she got a call from Josh’s school, Loreto College in Coleraine, to say he had a place on the programme, “it was better than winning the lottery”.
Faye says her 12-year-old son has benefitted from the programme and told her this week he was devastated when he heard it was closing and, even, asked if it was his fault.
“Josh has been going every Thursday and he loves it. He is with other young people who he can relate to and share the same experiences. The team there are fantastic. They know what the issues are and are achieving them,” said Faye. “My husband and I attended the eight-week parenting programme and it was great just to be able to chat with other parents and have that support. I can’t believe the service won’t be available any more. There is nothing else like this in Limavady, Derry or Coleraine. We are just really shocked it’s closing.”
Ms Christie said the impact of closure on families will be devastating.
“Many of the young people who attend Phoenix have no other social outlets; they will become more socially isolated than they already are. They will not have the opportunity to develop their social skills, behavioural skills or confidence. The impact for the parents and their extended family units will be debilitating with increased stress, loss of valuable respite time and no access to a support network.”
Ms Christie said it had taken time to develop the team at Phoenix and they would now have to seek jobs elsewhere. She said they had been humbled by the amount of support they’d received since news of the crisis spread.
“At this time we are unsure what the future holds for Phoenix and its members,” she added.
She said a meeting had been scheduled for the first week in May to meet with the Northern Trust “to discuss the closure of the project and how this will impact in the provision for young people diagnosed with ADHD within the Trust”.
After meeting Phoenix staff, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “The Health Trust and education authorities, who have used Phoenix to shore up their own provision, must meet with them immediately and arrange emergency funding until a more permanent solution can be arranged. Time is not a luxury these children can afford.”