Well-loved Dorchester children’s charity facing closure

The Dorchester Opportunity Group based near Poundbury, could be forced to close its doors due to a lack of funding.

The charity group is run from the Prince of Wales Pre-school Centre on Maiden Castle Road in Dorchester and provides almost one to one care for children pre-school children with a wide variety of additional needs and support for their parents, carers and siblings.

The Dorchester Opportunity Group, has been serving a wide area of West Dorset for nearly 25 years and specialises pre-school education through play for two to four year olds.

Education through play at The Dorchester Opportunity Group

It’s unique as all the children who attend the sessions have been referred by paediatricians, health visitors, speech and language therapists or social workers.

Autistic spectrum disorder, genetic and chromosomal disorders (including Down’s Syndrome), speech and language delay and Angelman Syndrome are some of the conditions that these children are living with.

Rated ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED, the Group’s existence is threatened as, in very tough fund-raising conditions, it has been unable to secure further funding from the Big Lottery. Up to October 2016 the Big Lottery had provided £40,000 a year, representing some 40 per cent of the total budget.

Speaking exclusively to Celebrating Poundbury, Councillor Janet Hewitt of Dorchester Town Council has praised the hard work of the charity: “The Dorchester Opportunity Group is a super group and they do wonderful work. I’ve seen first hand how they help children and importantly the families as well.”

Gemma Follett, a newly-appointed Trustee and parent of two children, who have hugely benefited from the Group, says: “It’s been a lifeline for our family and dozens of others. Without its fantastic support, as a parent of a disabled child, you feel isolated and judged till you’re at breaking point.”

We desperately need funds” says Opportunity Group manager, Nyree Gibbs. “It would be a tragedy if these children were denied the facilities and support we offer, not just for them, but also their families who need some respite and help.”

The Dorchester Opportunity Group is a lifeline for many families

The Dorchester Opportunity Group is highly respected by professionals in Children’s Services and the NHS. “The Group provides a valuable resource for young children with identified special needs, and for those who have clear difficulties but for whom clarity of diagnosis has not yet been reached”, says Dr Wei Liang Yap, Paediatrician Consultant at the Dorset County Hospital, speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Dr Wendy D’Arrigo and Dr Philip Wylie, fellow consultants at the hospital.

Dr Yap adds: “It would be a significant loss, if these children are no longer able to access this service, which is excellent. There is no equivalent alternative locally.” 

To make donations or suggest funding opportunities please call Nyree Gibbs on (01305) 751707, or email: dorchester-opportunity-group@btconnect.com

For more information please visit the website www.dorchesteropportunitygroup.co.uk

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