Specialist children's health centre to open
A £5 MILLION specialist centre for disabled children and their families is due to be open by June.
The Rainbow Centre, off the A28 at the Wyvern School site, brings a number of disciplines all under one roof, including paediatricians, speech and language therapists, dieticians, podiatrist, a specialist dentist, audiologist and physiotherapists.
They will work alongside teams from education, social services and parent-led charities.
Health and social care experts will be moving into the two-storey centre in the coming months.
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The hub, which has clinic rooms, a physiotherapy room, sensory room and soft play area, has taken 16-months to build and will care for more than 2,000 Ashford children with conditions such as Down's Syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy.
Martin Cunnington, senior commissioning manager for disabled children and children with long-term conditions at NHS Kent and Medway, said: "Parents told us they wanted a more joined-up approach to their children's care.
"The Rainbow Centre will not only mean parents only have to tell their story once, but ensure that families have full access to the wide range of support available to them, close to home and all under one roof."
Jenny Whittle, Kent County Council cabinet member for specialist children's services, said: "Bringing health and social care services together will make sure children in Ashford and the surrounding areas with disabilities, and their families, get the support they need.
"There are also benefits for health and social care professionals working together – giving them an insight into each other's work and using that experience to better serve children and young people."
Parent-run charity Include Us 2 will organise activities and advice sessions during the day and in the evenings.
Manager Michelle O'Callaghan said: "It's fantastic news and will make a real difference to the lives of disabled children and their families, giving them more control over the services they receive.
"It will cut down on appointments and travel times, making it easier to access consultants and professionals.
"We hope to be opening our office from early May.
"This includes running coffee mornings, fun clubs and drop-in sessions where parents can chat, share experiences, gain advice or maybe just relax while the children play.
"Include Us 2 is planning on fundraising for a specialist toy and book library and hope to start a local service so parents can borrow specialist equipment."
The hub is one of three in east Kent to open, funded by NHS Kent and Medway, Kent County Council and central Government grants. A formal launch will take place later in the year.