The £1 million development, on Wirral Autistic Society's (WAS) Raby Hall site in Bromborough, has been funded by a two-year long Lifetime Appeal and was officially opened to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day earlier this month [2 April].
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Dame Lorna commented that opening the unit was a real treat and that a great deal of thought had gone into its design. She said, "When I was a young nurse autism wasn't even identified. Parents then had to just soldier on. We know so much more now but it's still a constant challenge today."
WAS is a charity employing 800 staff across Merseyside and supporting more than 300 people with autism and complex needs. In 2011, the charity opened the UK's first purpose built respite centre for adults with autism at Raby Hall. The new developments are part of a 10-year strategy to completely modernise the site.
Alongside the opening of the new facility, WAS marked World Autism Awareness Day and its official colour of blue by asking families, schools and buildings across the region to ‘Get your blue on’.
Hundreds of blue balloons were released after the official opening of the Willows, with the help of Everton FC Club Ambassadors Graeme Sharp and Ian Snodin (pictured). During the evening, landmark buildings across Wirral and Merseyside lit up blue to mark the day including: Goodison Park, Birkenhead and Wallasey town halls and three lighthouses along the Wirral coast.
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