Centre promises a brighter future for disabled children
by Hayley Robinson
Care for disabled children and their families in Swale is
about to be transformed.
Final preparations are under way to open a £4.4 million
centre at the former Meadowfields school site in Attlee Way,
The two-storey building, named Orchards, will bring
together health, social care and voluntary professionals under one
It will house paediatricians, speech and language
therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians,
a podiatrist, a specialist dentist, audiologist and other
consultants, who will work alongside teams from education, social
services and parent-led charities.
The aim is to improve the care and support given to more
than 2,000 children in the borough who have conditions such as
Down's syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. Inside is a mixture of
clinic and physiotherapy rooms, a sensory room and soft play
The one-stop shop, which took 16 months to build, is
expected to be fully operational by June.
Martin Cunnington, senior commissioning manager for
disabled children and children with long-term conditions at NHS
Kent and Medway, said: "Parents told us they wanted a more
joined-up approach to their children's care. Orchards 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."
Jenny Whittle, Kent County Council's cabinet member for
specialist children's services, said: "Bringing health and social
care services together will make sure children in Swale with
disabilities, and their families, get the support they
"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
The hub is one of three funded by NHS Kent and Medway,
Kent County Council and central government grants.
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