New West Sussex care hub to benefit people with learning difficulties

A state-of-the-art facility is set to open in West Sussex offering specialist support for people with learning disabilities across the south coast.

Friday, 19th June 2020, 3:16 pm
Updated Friday, 19th June 2020, 3:18 pm
Willow Barn

The care hub will be run by The Ark Project and will help people on the autistic spectrum and their families.

Called Willow Barn, the new centre was purpose-built to replace a day centre of the same name and on the same land in Merston, near Chichester.

The new Willow Barn will act as a hub for people with learning difficulties and features a sensory room, changing room, art and media centre and other bespoke facilities.

Project manager Alex Fryer

Alex Fryer is the project manager at The Ark Project.

He said: “There is nowhere in West Sussex quite like Willow Barn. I think that in time it will be nationally significant.

“Willow Barn is about giving people somewhere to belong.”

Mr Fryer said as the lockdown eases, the project was working with West Sussex County Council to open in a safe and person centred way.

He added: “There is an awful lot we will be able to offer people. We use an unconventional and highly creative approach to supporting people. The organisation has made a significant investment in this facility because there simply isn’t enough out there for individuals with this level of need.

“The Ark Project is in an incredible position with this development and it feels quite modern and cutting edge. It has very much been done in partnership with West Sussex County Council.

“There are a lot of people in the community, who, because of the way they can react to certain situations, are unable to attend more traditional day centres. Some of the people we work with are entirely non verbal, and they can often present with behaviours that require a highly personalised approach to understand.

"With this in mind we have aspired to provide them with a safe and creative space where they can belong. We have also tried to remember the importance of community and inclusion. Everything has been purpose built from the ground up.”

The size of the new site allows for further resources to be added in the future and there are ‘big plans’, including facilities for woodworking, gardening, a hydrotherapy pool and a woodland walk.

Mr Fryer said: “When you offer someone a community-based service like this, it is important that it is somewhere they can feel included and valued. What makes the Ark Project’s approach unique is we try to see the whole picture – supporting the individual but also supporting their families. The people we work with all have their own very unique personalities, and they benefit from a service that is as individual as they are.”