When I think about the Croft community I think of our lovely residents and their zest for life. I think of our caring, compassionate staff and management team, and our voluntary Management Committee who give so generously of their time and expertise. I think of our fine suite of buildings at 71 Bloomfield Road, which have been developed over the years to provide accommodation and furnishings anyone would be proud of.
But my fondest thoughts are of those moments when our residents have brought a sparkle to a particular moment and made it special. One of those memories was when the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew visited Croft and was asked by Peter - who took a great interest in politics - “Do you know John Major?” to which Sir Patrick replied “Oh yes, I used to be his boss, now he’s my boss”. Then Peter said, “I like John Major, would you tell him that Peter at Croft was asking for him?” The outcome was that Peter received a letter of appreciation and thanks from the Prime Minister, and subsequently an invitation to Sir Patrick’s farewell party at Hillsborough Castle. I can think of many such times when the simple outlook of our folk has brought not only a smile but a sense of reality and of what’s really important.
“Necessity is the mother of invention” and Croft was born out of the great necessity, back in the 70’s, to provide much needed suitable long-term accommodation for adults with a learning disability, whose parents were getting older and were concerned about what would happen to their children.
In October 1979 I was invited by Iris Bingham and Maureen Smith, Principal and Deputy Principal at Clifton Special Care School, to join a small group of parents and professionals who were very concerned about the situation. We heard some very distressing stories of young folk, who on the death of a parent or carer and due to the shortage of suitable accommodation, were moved away from their home, school, friends, practically overnight to Muckamore Abbey mental hospital or any where a vacancy could be found.
The story of The Croft Community and of all that has happened from then till now is a story of vision, determination and perseverance in the face of many obstacles facing a small group, who were relatively unknown and inexperienced.
The first major obstacle was that we had no money to embark on such a venture. So an approach was made to the N.I. Federation of Housing Associations, the outcome of which was that we entered into a joint management agreement with a housing association, where they provide the premises and maintenance, for which we pay Housing Executive based rents. Croft in turn provides the caring through the Health Trust. This arrangement has worked very well and we are grateful to Choice Housing Association and our local Health Trust for their support and co-operation over the years.
When we opened The Croft Community in 1983 we provided accommodation for 7 long term residents plus I place for much needed, short-term respite care.
We now have 8 residential places providing care in the communal Mayne House, 34 tenants in Supported Living accommodation, enabling a more independent life style, 7 respite places in our recently opened Croft Lodge, which was designed to accommodate some wheelchair bound clients, and which serves around 100 families. We also have a very successful Day Care service offering meaningful activities for 27 folk from Croft and from the wider community.
The Croft team are always seeking new ways to help our residents achieve our Mission at Croft, which is to “Empower adults with learning disabilities to live fulfilling lives within the community”.
Our Strategic Plan for the next 5 years is to maintain the high standards at Croft and develop our services to meet the challenges and needs of people with learning disabilities and their families.
From the dream presented to us at that meeting back in October 1979 to its realisation today has been an amazing journey of faith, hope and love, and much prayer
The best thing I can hear of is a resident saying to their parent or carer after a night out is, “It’s time I went home to Croft now”.
Chairman of Croft Management Committee