New centres will support 6,000 children across Ashford, Thanet and Swale with conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy

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Three multi-million pound specialist hubs aimed at transforming care for thousands of disabled children and their families are preparing to open their doors.

The centres – Green Banks in Thanet; Rainbow Centre in Ashford; and Orchards in Swale – will be one-stop shops bringing health, social care and voluntary professionals together under one roof.

They will make access to facilities and services easier, and will support more than 6,000 children across the three districts with conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy.

“Parents told us they wanted a more joined-up approach to their children’s care,” said Martin Cunnington, senior commissioning manager for disabled children and children with long-term conditions at NHS Kent and Medway.

“Orchards, Green Banks and 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.”

The two-storey, purpose-built centres, which cost a total of more than £13m, will be fully operational by June and will house paediatricians, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians, podiatrist, a specialist dentist, audiologist and other consultants who will work alongside teams from education, social services and parent-led charities.

They will have a mix of clinic rooms, a physiotherapy room, sensory room and soft play area.

Kent County Council cabinet member for specialist children’s services Cllr Jenny Whittle said bringing health and social care services together would ensure children in Swale with disabilities, and their families, got the support they needed.

“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,” she said.

Parent-led charity 4us2 will play a leading role in coordinating fun, short break and activities during the day and evening at the three centres.

Manager Andrea Bennett, from Ramsgate, has a 14-year-old son Archie with Charge Syndrome, a rare condition which means he is deaf-blind as well as having a heart condition and severe learning disabilities.

She said: “We plan on running coffee mornings, fun clubs and drop-in sessions where parents can chat to other parents, share problems and experiences, gain advice or maybe just relax while the children play.”

Green Banks, which cost £4.1m to build, is located on the Garlinge Primary School site in Garlinge near Margate; the Rainbow Centre, costing £5m, is on the Wyvern School site, just off the A28 in Ashford; and Orchards, £4.4m, is on the former Meadowfield School site at Kemsley.

They were funded by NHS Kent and Medway, Kent County Council and central Government grants.

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