Team effort leads to the successful opening of the unique Mencap Centre in Belfast…
Mencap prides itself on being ‘the voice of learning disability’ but the opening of the new £4.6million Mencap Centre will give users more than just a voice – and as the main contractor on the project, Mascott Construction is proud of its involvement.
The first of its kind for Mencap, the opening of the purpose-built centre in Belfast is a radical step forward for the future of children and young people with a learning disability and their families across Northern Ireland.
The official opening by First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Health Minister Simon Hamilton was the culmination of Mencap’s ‘Big Step Forward’ appeal that was launched in 2014 to raise the funds required to build, equip and run the new facility.
The state-of-the-art centre will serve as a new model for early intervention services across the UK and Ireland and provides much needed support services for families and young adults with a learning disability.
“This is one of the most rewarding projects that I have ever worked on,” explained Mark Hanna, Contracts Director, Mascott Construction. “This is a unique facility which has a lot of different functions all under one roof, so it was important to focus on the individual needs of each different area and how it interacted with the rest of the centre.
“But we were blessed to be working with a very dedicated team from Mencap who gave us a clear idea of how this centre would make a real difference to people’s lives. That gave us an extra incentive.
“Mencap knew exactly what they wanted, yet were open to new ideas that could enhance the facility. They appreciated our input and it was a real privilege to work with them.”
Given the array of services offered at the new Mencap Centre, the flexible approach offered by Mascott Construction made the company the perfect choice for this design and build project.
At the heart of the new building is the Children’s Centre, a nursery for 2 to 4-year-old children with a learning disability, autism or developmental delay, many of whom have multiple, profound and complex needs. The ground floor incorporates the nursery with three airy, sun-filled playrooms, a soft play area, sensory room, and therapy and family consultation rooms. The playrooms open out onto a large, secure south-facing outdoor play area with specialist equipment tailored to children’s needs – seven times the size of the back yard at Mencap’s previous facilities at Segal House.
The Mencap Centre will take a unique approach to the health care and education provision it offers by housing therapists from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust on site. This means children and young people will have access to the variety of therapies and support services they need, all under one roof. This simple fact provides huge benefits to the children, young people and their families who would have otherwise experienced time and cost pressures incurred by the travel to and from hospital appointments.
“It was a traditional build using a steel frame and red brick but, internally, it involved a lot of different elements that had to be brought together,” said Mark. “It is part school, part health centre, but Mencap wanted it to be as inviting as possible, so it is bright and vibrant throughout.”
Mark feels that the relationships built up with the client and the entire project team made a significant difference to the success of the project.
“We are big believers in trying to iron out issues before we move on site,” he added. “Overall, there was great co-operation between all the various companies involved, and we were able to include a number of value-engineered solutions that helped the buildability of the project.
“It’s all about building partnerships swe were delighted with the part we played in bringing this centre to life and helping Mencap to make a significant difference to families in Northern Ireland.