A Whitehead-based children’s centre offers a ‘haven’ for young people who use the service, a local mum has said.
Julie Kidd’s 14-year-old son Stuart is a regular visitor at Whitehaven Respite Unit, run by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.
The Edward Road facility offers short breaks for children and young people with disabilities.
Last week, there was outrage in the local community after thieves emptied the unit’s heating oil tank over the new year period.
With staff unable to heat the building, Stuart and four other children - many from the east Antrim area- missed out on their respite break on January 2.
“Stuart is autistic, has heart trouble and is non-verbal,” said Julie, who lives in Greenisland.
“He would go to Whitehaven about twice a month. He always gets so excited and counts down the days.”
However, the family were left shocked and upset on hearing the news that Whitehaven had been targeted.
“I was angry that people could stoop so low as to do that,” Julie added.
“When you’re trying to explain something like that to a child with special needs - he just didn’t understand why he had to come home.
“I feel sorry for all of the kids because they love it. When they go down there it’s like their wee haven.
“For Stuart it’s much more than just a short break; he’s been going there for years and it’s somewhere he can play, make friends and communicate with other children.
“It’s like his lifeline to the outside world.”
Meanwhile, police are continuing to appeal for anyone with information on the incident to contact them on 101, using the reference number 1034 2/1/18.