NEWCASTLE could be home to a new holiday home development for people with autism.
The plans, which would provide jobs for up to 90 people, are being considered by the Autism Initiatives charity.
The organisation also hopes to have Newcastle designated as the first ‘Autism Friendly’ town in Northern Ireland. This could involve businesses and amenities adapting their services so they can be enjoyed by those with autism.
Councillors attending Monday’s meeting of the local Newry, Mourne and Down Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee, heard council officers had already met with representatives from Autism Initiatives.
A report presented to council stated: “Autism Initiatives is currently consulting on the potential development of an exclusive Autism-Specific holiday home in Newcastle, which could provide employment for 90 people. The organisation also aspires to have Newcastle designated as the first Autism Friendly Town in Northern Ireland.”
The report also noted that in May Newcastle will feature as a host location for an exchange programme involving ‘TILL’ — which offers programs and resources for people with autism and their families — in partnership with a charity based in Boston.
“Autism Initiatives believes that the development of autism specific accommodation in Newcastle and town friendly designation will promote tourism opportunities for Newcastle as well as providing additional employment opportunities,” the council report added.
Councillors agreed to work with the private sector in the Newcastle area to develop the concept of Newcastle being awarded ‘Autism Friendly’ town status.
Autism Initiatives is a UK-wide body with a turnover of £47m. It is the largest voluntary sector provider of direct services to children and adults with an autism spectrum condition in Northern Ireland. The organisation has developed rapidly since it was established in 2002 and currently employs 260 staff.
Grainne Close, National Director with the charity, said: “We are delighted that the Newry, Mourne and Down Council have offered their support for Autism Initiatives proposal to designate Newcastle as the first Autism Friendly town in Northern Ireland and look forward to working in partnership with the council, the chamber of commerce and other organisations and businesses in the local area.
“Autism Initiatives have a long history of supporting adults with autism in Northern Ireland. We are well established in Newcastle, County Down and currently employ over 90 staff and support over 60 service users with a range of autism-specific services that meet individualised needs.
“To many of our adult service users with autism, Newcastle is home. The community here are very accepting and understanding of the needs of people we support. Many of the local businesses offer employment to our service users and have adapted their premises to ensure accessibility for all.
“By promoting Newcastle as Northern Ireland’s first Autism Friendly town we are sending out a clear message that Newcastle is a welcoming holiday destination for children, adults and their families on the autism spectrum.
“We are excited about the endless possibilities and epic experiences that could be provided in the future for people with autism in Newcastle. We are currently considering a number of initiatives that could enhance the quality of lives of people with autism and their families and hope to unveil these plans in the very near future.”