A purpose-built facility for children with disabilities in York has opened to young people and their families this week.

‘The Beehive’, which has been built in Acomb, will provide short overnight breaks for children with complex disabilities in the city.

Young people and their families will also be able to receive specialist support from a wide range of professionals, including clinical psychologists, in the building. The new facility will enable many of them to receive the support they need in York for the first time.

Thought to be one of the first facilities of its kind in the country, the innovative building is a partnership between City of York Council and NHS England. The construction work was carried out by Sewell Construction,

‘The Beehive’ name was chosen by the children and families who will use it and the ‘bee theme’ will flow throughout the new facility, including bee-friendly names for the bedroom areas and honeycomb-like hexagons incorporated into the decorative features.

Children and young people using the facility will also be given a fluffy bee toy to take home with them as a visual reminder of their ‘home away from home’.

It’s hoped that this attention to detail will help the children settle into the new building more easily, something which is particularly important for young people with learning disabilities or autism.

The new centre includes:

  • spacious bedrooms with state of the art hoist and bathing facilities for children who have complex health needs and wheelchair users
  • a larger, open-spaced area and bedrooms for children with learning disabilities or autism
  • quieter self-contained areas that can be used for children who may struggle in a more open, busier environment and where their parents can accompany them so that their needs can be fully assessed
  • an activity area, sensory room and quiet rooms
  • a large outdoor play space with a variety of equipment suitable for children of all abilities.

Vicky has a disabled son who uses a wheelchair and attends the short breaks service, said: “The Beehive is an absolute lifeline to me and my children, it gives me a chance to spend quality time with my other two younger children and for some much-needed rest mentally and physically. I love all the staff there as does my son otherwise he simply wouldn’t go. He enjoys being there and the new building is totally amazing for him and the other children that have short breaks.”

Steve, whose daughter will also be staying at The Beehive, said “Having a facility like the Beehive to provide respite is invaluable to both our daughter and ourselves. Knowing that she is in a safe and enjoyable environment allows us to have a worry-free time, which is important for both our physical and mental wellbeing. We are so lucky in York to have this on our doorstep.”

Cllr Keith Orrell, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, said: “The Beehive enables us to meet the very specific needs of York children with complex disabilities and their families for the first time, providing them with the care and support they need within the city.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in this project for their passion and commitment, including the parents and young people who have helped us shape the services and building right from the design stage. I hope that the young people and their families enjoy the facility as a new ‘home from home’.

Philippa Hughes, Housing Senior Manager for the NHS Learning Disability and Autism Programme in Yorkshire and Humber, said: “NHS England and NHS Improvement is delighted to support this much-needed development in the City of York. The involvement of children and their families has been integral from the outset of the project and we believe that involvement will help lead to a successful service that will benefit many more children to live full and meaningful lives in their local communities.”

Rob Cawkwell, Managing Director at Sewell Construction, said: “We’re delighted to complete this much-needed, quality facility to support children’s services.

“As a UK first, it has been a true collaborative effort to design and build a very specific facility for a unique set of needs.

“I have no doubt that The Beehive will be home to services that will improve both aspirations and opportunities of children and young people with learning disabilities.

“We’re looking forward to continuing our excellent working relationship with City of York Council in the future.”