Cuts to care services prompt couple to build adult centre

Ambitious project: Ian and Rachael Scott-Hunter with former mayor of Bicester Les Sibley and wife Mary at a fundraising event for Alexandra House of Joy which will support adults with learning disabilities

Cuts to care services in Bicester have left one family with no alternative but to start up their own multi-million pound centre for adults with learning disabilities.

Rachael and Ian Scott-Hunter responded to council cut backs in north Oxfordshire care services by launching a campaign to raise £2.5million in three years to open Alexandra House of Joy.

The couple were inspired to set up the centre after budget cuts to care services made looking after their daughter Alexandra, 45, who has severe learning difficulties, increasingly more challenging.

The campaigners have raised £20,592 towards their target since February.

Rachael said: “When the local authority carried out closures in 2017, I had a vision of a new and independent centre being built for our adults in our local community with diverse facets, and many exciting opportunities for adults with learning disabilities.

“We have had in the learning disability sector consistent experiences with loss of services and the resulting worry and stress that brings.

“We have registration from the Charity Commission, registration with the HMRC, a bank account, a website, design developers and an amazing and overwhelmingly generous gift of land from a truly wonderful local landowner.”

The mission for the project is to provide unconditional acceptance of all adults with a learning disability.

Rachael said cutbacks at other care services in the county, such as the impending closure of Douglas House in east Oxford, are “heart breaking”.

She said: “I have been asked by a couple of people now why we are building a completely new place when we could be purchasing Douglas House, and this I can understand.

“However, our new ‘service’ is completely different to the provision by Douglas House.”

The project will provide daytime support for between 25 to 35 adults with six rooms in the centre for respite care.

Bicester’s new mayor councillor Sean Gaul described the project as “incredibly ambitious”.

He said: “It is great that Bicester has been identified as a location for such a project and I hope the good people of Bicester and across Oxfordshire contribute what they can to make the Alexandra House of Joy project a reality.”

Former mayor of Bicester Cllr Les Sibley said cuts have unfortunately left the town relying more and more on the generosity of “fantastic volunteers”.

He said: “It’s an exciting project in a lot of ways and the generosity of local individuals and businesses is heart warming.

“I will do what I can to help Rachael and Ian to fulfill their vision.”

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