Norwich care charity in �1.3m appeal

Kim BriscoeA Norwich charity which helps adults and children with special needs is today unveiling plans for an ambitious �1.3m centre.Kim Briscoe

A charity which helps adults and children with special needs is today unveiling plans for an ambitious �1.3m centre.

The Hamlet Centre is bursting at the seams in its existing home in Ella Road, Thorpe Hamlet.

Now it has teamed up with the St Raphael Club, in Johnson Place, to turn the venue into a new base for its children's activities and services.

The �1.3 revamp of the centre will allow the charity to expand the help, support and activities it offers to children, while at the same time freeing up more room at the Ella Road centre for it to improve its adult services.

The partnership between the two charities means the St Raphael Club members will also benefit from using an improved building.

So far almost �600,000 has been secured towards the plan, but the Hamlet Centre is now appealing for the city's support in helping it to raise the remaining �700,000 funds.

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Chief executive Michael Rooney said: 'The centre isn't big enough to cater for two expanding services and clearly the need is there for both.

'During the school holidays it is really, early important for the children who go to schools like the Clare School, Parkside and Harford Manor, to have some fun and a break from a school environment.

'It's also incredibly important for families with disabled children to have a short break.

'We hope this will be a flagship centre which will show that Norwich and Norfolk are leading the way in providing high quality services for people with special needs.'

From helping young people with independent living, to developing learning at all ages, the Hamlet Centre is a vital lifeline for many families bringing up children or helping adults with additional needs.

It offers a fun place for people to get involved in arts, crafts and messy play, as well trips to the cinema, skiing, horse riding or a meal out.

Its popular summer play schemes and half-term short breaks are much in demand, but it can be hard to find the room for both children and adults in its current home.

Luke Mouncey, 28, from Rollesby, has been going to the Hamlet Centre for eight years.

He told the Evening News that he loved 'everything' about the centre. He also uses its out-of-hours service and said: 'We go the cinema to restaurant and on boat trips.'

This afternoon the Hamlet Centre Trust will formally launch the fundraising appeal at the St Raphael Club.

The charity also hopes the refurbishment of the St Raphael Club, which is in a prominent place on the roundabout at the top of Grapes Hill, will help to regenerate the area.

The revamped venue will house the charity's popular toy library, as well as a secure outdoor play space, a dining room and meeting space, quiet room and quiet sensory room, playroom, soft play area, and an arts, crafts and IT room.

Because many of the people helped by the Hamlet Centre have special needs, it will also be equipped with state-of-the art toilet and care areas.

Space restrictions mean the centre is not able to invite the wider community to use its resources as much as it would like.

Joan Welsby, its manager for adult services, said: 'We want to be able to integrate much more with the local community and make ourselves more of a community resource. It's wonderful for the students to develop their social skills within the wider community.

'Also, and the most crucial thing, is that at the moment we are having to say no to some people who desperately want places here.

'I hate having to say no because there are very few other places for them to go.

'Hopefully I won't have to say no any more and that will be brilliant.'

At the moment the charity is trying to work out how much it will need to raise just so it can start work on the project.

The Hamlet Centre started out as Norwich Toy Library, which was founded in 1972.

It initially operated from the Vauxhall Centre, which is next to the St Raphael Club. Mr Rooney said: 'The Vauxhall Centre has a strong tradition of helping people with disabilities so we are looking forward to returning to the area.

'We are also hoping that people in Norwich and Norfolk will be able to support us in our fundraising campaign.'

Ways to donate:

Standing order forms are available from the Hamlet Centre, Ella Road, Norwich NR1 4BP and are available to download at

For a sponsored event, to find out about payroll giving, and any other means of donating, contact the centre by calling 01603 616094

or by email at

Alternatively, set up a justgiving page at, registered charity number 1000653.

t In tomorrow's Evening News we find out more about how the new centre will help the charity to expand its services.

t Are you planning to fundraise for the Hamlet Centre? If so contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email

t Evening News comment - page 8