Uncertainty for Eglinton charity Something Special

By Lauren Millar
BBC Radio Foyle

Image caption, Something Special had been operating at the old Craigbrack Primary School outside Eglinton

Services have been halted at a Londonderry charity for young adults with learning difficulties, with its future in doubt, parents say.

Parents received a letter saying the Something Special centre was being wound up and replaced by a new group, and its gates were locked on Monday.

The charity has not responded to several requests for information.

Based outside Eglinton, it was founded in 2007 and currently teaches 30 students with learning disabilities.

The centre uses music to aid learning and social interaction.

'Anger and distress'

Two letters received by parents recently and purporting to come from management appear to contradict each other.

The first letter, dated 11 April, states that Something Special was not closing but going through a process of transferring its activities from an "association" to an "academy".

On 20 April, families received a second letter saying the charity was closing down and the new academy would be taking it over.

Mary Lynch - whose son John attended the charity four times a week - says parents "need answers".

"There are 30 students with learning disabilities with no place to go," Mary Lynch told BBC Radio Foyle.

"We just want somebody to talk to us. John is very distressed.

"Confusion creates anger and distress."

John Lynch, said he had learnt about music and art as a student at Something Special since 2007.

"Something Special means I always get to learn something new and make new friends," he said.

'Left in the lurch'

The charity grew rapidly in recent years and at one stage had a craft shop in Eglinton selling products that had been made by the students.

Robert Cooke's daughter Louise, who is 23 and severely autistic, has been attending the group for the last five years and loves the social interaction it offered.

"We have been left in the lurch," said Mr Cooke.

"For the past four weeks nearly now Louise has been in the house with us with no schemes or anything to go to.

"She's missing her friends now and she loves everybody that works in it. She's been asking when she can go back."

There is no suggestion of any wrong doing on anyone's part.