Ed Balls opens Hackney’s ground breaking service for disabled children and young people

Yesterday (Thursday 3 December) the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, the Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, officially opened Hackney Ark, a unique service providing a wide range of healthcare, education and social care services for children and young people aged 0 - 19 with disabilities or special educational needs, and their families.

Before the opening, the Secretary of State toured the purpose built, state-of-the-art facility that houses 31 different services, provided in partnership between Hackney Council, NHS City and Hackney and The Learning Trust. Mr Balls met many of the Ark’s staff as well as a number of families who use the facility, including Rebecca Middleton-Davies, 7, who assisted Mr Balls in cutting the ribbon to officially open the building.

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families said:
“The Hackney Ark Young People’s Centre for Child Development and Disability helps children and young people from across the borough who face developmental, learning, physical or mental challenges. From cerebral palsy to aspergers syndrome, from visual impairment to physical disability, Hackney Ark provides one-site support for children and young people, helping them reach their full potential.

This is a fantastic example of integrated service for children and families, with staff working from health, education and children’s social care all under one roof. I was really impressed with what I saw and walking through this fabulous new building and speaking to front line staff, it illustrates once again the excellent service these three agencies bring to the community: NHS City and Hackney Community Health Services, The Learning Trust and the London Borough of Hackney.

Improving the life chances of children with special educational needs and disabilities is an absolute priority for this Government and I hope to see many more of these fantastic centres open across the country.”

To mark the occasion, Mr Balls was joined by local dignitaries, including Hackney’s directly elected mayor Jules Pipe; Jacqui Harvey, Chief Executive of NHS City and Hackney; Alan Wood, Chief Executive of The Learning Trust and Director of Children’s Services for Hackney Council; Councillor Rita Krishna, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services; and Hackney’s Olympic and Paralympic Ambassador Dervis Konuralp, a Paralympic swimmer.

Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, said:
“Hackney Ark shows what can be achieved through innovative, effective partnership working and putting residents’ needs at the heart of planning. This centre was designed in close consultation with those families and young people it serves and they remain instrumental in its running, helping ensure it continues to provide the highest possible levels of support to all its users. I’d like to congratulate everyone involved.”

Jacqui Harvey, Chief Executive NHS City and Hackney, said:
"What a fantastic place the Hackney Ark is. The fact we can bring all of these services for disabled children and young people together is not only a great benefit to them and their families but a testament to the strength of our partnership arrangements in Hackney. This really is a wonderful example of a joined up approach to health services. All the Hackney Ark staff are to be congratulated"

Opening in March 2008, Hackney Ark was designed and constructed around the needs of disabled children and young people. It successfully provides a single point of access to a range of universal, targeted and specialist support, information and advice.

By combining clinical and non-clinical support networks, it provides an innovative “one stop shop” service delivery approach for children and young people with disabilities or special educational needs, and their parents/carers. One of the Ark’s main objectives is to ensure service users only have to tell their story once.