Health, disability & well-being

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000


In July 2012 a group of young adults with disabilities and their parents were devastated to learn that the day centre they attended had closed down. As there was no other charity in the area for young adults with disabilities several parents along with members of the community decided to attempt to keep the group together by starting a new day centre called Freespirits. With no funding available and no premises the project seemed short lived.
Chris Holmes, chairperson of the charity said “At that time we were at our lowest and ready to quit, however when I spoke to Ian Donaldson (Managing Director of Autonet Insurance) about our situation he figuratively put his arm around us and said that via various fundraising efforts and some help we would be able to keep going, he was right!”
Finding a suitable building was extremely difficult and they were forced to borrow a scout hut as a temporary solution; however it soon became clear that the building wasn’t suitable for the needs of the ten young adults. The building only has one disabled toilet, a single room to socialise in and the only office in the building is forced to accommodate a changing bed and hoist, which can be quite undignified for the young adults using it. The size of the building is also extremely lacking with only one room available for the young adults to stretch their legs without going outside; where there is only a gravel driveway.
Since moving into the scout hut Freespirits had been looking relentlessly for a more suitable building; finally they found a community centre owned by the council which had been closed for three years and in November 2014 they received the building via asset transfer over a 25 year lease. Obviously this news was greatly received by Freespirits and the local community as the journey to getting the young adults a new building received its first boost in over two years.
In the initial clear out of the building Ian and members of staff from Autonet helped, or at least the staff members did as Ian stepped on a nail within five minutes and needed a tetanus jab. Ian was asked why Autonet supported the project: “Freespirits are an inspirational charity who does great things in our local area and we are proud to be a supporter… I have even spilt blood for their cause! In all seriousness getting the building completed would be monumental in the lives of everyone associated with the charity.”
The local community helped as well; people gave up their weekends to clear old fittings and fixtures out of the building and into skips, supplied for free from local skip hire companies and small donations were made to the charity. After the clear out, the renovation project was divided into three stages, stage 1 included: increasing the size of all the internal doors for wheelchair users, adding a new ceiling in the main room, building two new offices and installing new lighting and heating which was promptly completed.
Although stage 1 has been successful, it depleted the charities saving’s and the promised move is now on hold until more funds become available. With the £10,000 funding Freespirits will be able to complete Stage 2 and the day centre can finally move out of the scout hut into the new building as Stage 3 only involves making the new building aesthetically pleasing for all who visit.
Specifically the funding from Aviva will:
Pay for four new disabled toilets
Pay for a sensory room will full sensory equipment
Pay for changing rooms will full equipment – including hoist facilities
Pay for suitable flooring
This is a project driven by a real need to provide a suitable building and equipment for young adults with disabilities in Abbey Hulton and its surrounding areas and the funding will ensure the likelihood of its success and long term sustainability. Once the move is complete Freespirits are aiming to double their client base within the first year, and within three years increase their client base again to over 30 young adults!

Project Video


Moment of Pride

Freespirits is a day centre whose only purpose is the wellbeing, safety and inclusion of all the young adults who attend. The money provided will allow the clients to have a safe and accessible environment and the new building will be a central hub for the young adults and the local community.

Location: Stoke-on-Trent