It was pleasing to have a return visit from Suzanne Barton who last year visited in her role as fundraiser for Kirkwood Hospice. Suzanne is now one of a team of five people who fundraise for Hollybank and is the Corporate Fundraiser because of her expertise in corporate sales and account management.
Apparently a lot of people do not know what Hollybank does. Suzanne explained to us within the limited time of thirty minutes, including a ten minute video, and answered all our questions afterwards.
Hollybank cares for and educates over one hundred children, young people and adults from four years old who have severe and complex disabilities. After the age of nineteen students can choose to stay at Hollybank, thus remaining in an environment which provides meaningful activities for life with their peers. It is the only organisation which looks after students for life. Young people come from all over the country, from twenty different authorities, even as far away as Essex. There is the school and six residential homes on site at Roe Head in Mirfield and there are community homes in Halifax, South Kirby, Barnsley and Holmfirth. A new sixteen bed home will soon be completed on site at a cost of £2,000,000.
A variety of staff is employed in various capacities. Speech and language therapists are needed to help in communication as many students cannot speak. All even need help with eating, drinking and swallowing. There is a full physiotherapy department plus hydrotherapy, the aim being to keep everyone as active as possible. There is a sensory curriculum and some staff arrange trips out and even abroad. Some students go sailing in specially adapted boats and some go horse riding through the services of Riding For The Disabled in Wakefield. There is round-the-clock nursing care for those who need it. In school, all follow the National Curriculum but it is adapted for a sensory curriculum. Hollybank is a fun and caring place with life-long care for those who wish it, but, sadly, many young people cannot benefit from it as there are no more places. In the video, everyone seemed very happy.
Hollybank owns eighteen minibuses as not all students are residential and some only attend during term-time and some are sent by social services for respite only. All students are referred through the local health service then the local authority. Families do not pay fees but all help to fundraise.
The running costs for Hollybank are £12,000,000 per year. Much of this is covered by the local authority but the trust also has to raise money and must also cover the costs of alterations and improvements.
Hollybank has been open for sixty years and has been in Mirfield since 1992 and was previously in Lindley in Huddersfield. There are five hundred and sixty staff as each resident needs three people over a twenty-four hour period. Peer groups are kept together. The oldest resident is forty-six years old. Any further building will be done in other towns and areas so that the Mirfield site does not become a "Hollybank village".
The Hollybank Trust group is hoping that with continued support it will be able to provide "quality of life.....for life" for as many as possible.
So, in short, Hollybank provides education and meaningful activities for all in their care, enabling them to have opportunities they may not have been able to access due to the nature of their disabilities.
As a group, the Ladies' Fellowship is looking forward to a visit to Hollybank in the near future at the invitation of Suzanne.