Help us help families: Rainbow Club pleading for support to expand services

Help us help families: Rainbow Club pleading for support to expand services
Karen O'Mahony, founder, in the Rainbow Club for Autism at Mahon Community Centre, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

A CORK centre for autism which cannot keep up with demand for its services is pleading with the government for funding to allow it to expand to help 2,000 families.

The Rainbow Club Centre for Autism currently supports more than 625 families in the Cork area but has more than 230 on waiting lists for its services.

It is seeking to buy a two-storey complex in Little Island in the hope of being able to cater for the thousands more seeking support.

The new 3.2 acre site in Little Island could see the service expand to cater for 1,000 families in the first year, and 2,000 within 18 months. 

“The building will cost €2 million and we’re appealing for government departments to help us buy it,” said Karen O’Mahony, who founded the Rainbow Club with her husband John in 2015.

“Around 625 families can access us, but only once a week, due to a lack of space and we want to expand that to ensure everyone is supported.

“We can help but we need the facilities to be able to,” she added.

The Rainbow Club began with 22 children and a budget of around €600 in 2015.

“Since 2015, we’ve supported hundreds of families with ASD programmes,” said Ms O’Mahony.

Ms O’Mahony added: “Around 512 parents have taken classes that we offer, we have two play therapists, an art therapist, an occupational therapist and a speech and language therapist.

“Imagine what we could do with a little help and bigger premises,” she added.

There are currently almost 4,000 children awaiting an Assessment of Need across Ireland, more than 1,500 of these children in the Cork/Kerry region.

Many of these will need access to other supports and services once they have been assessed.

“We can be there for them and the hundreds on our waiting lists to offer these services and more,” said Ms O’Mahony.

“But we need support from the HSE, Department of Education and other government departments.

“If we got this support, you might not have as many people struggling to access services,” she added.

Ms O’Mahony said the ultimate goal is to roll similar initiatives to the Rainbow Club out across Ireland.

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