The Rainbow Club in Cork, which supports more than 230 children and has more than 130 parents on a waiting list, said it desperately needs to find bigger premises.
Established by volunteers in 2015, and with a budget of just €617, it began working with 22 children with autism from rooms in Mahon Community Centre. Today, it caters for 237 children, ranging in age from 18 months to 17 years. However, it can not cater for the demand from its current premises.
“We are trying to support these families outside the club but numbers are growing every day and we don’t have room to open more groups,” said co-founder, Karen O’Mahony, a mother of two boys with autism. “We have a huge need to expand and we need help as soon as possible. We get no funding from the Government and all monies raised come from fundraisers, supported by the public, and from family members and businesses.”
Ms O’Mahony said they have no room to add parent training or sibling groups, and that they need extra room for occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy, which the club helps to subsidise.
“We also have a music programme which needs to expand due to the volume of children waiting,” she said. “Our club is the only one of its kind and it is helping families and improving children’s skills in many areas. We are doing all this because we live this every day and want to help families like that need us to support them. We are saving the Government hundreds of thousand each year providing these families with many supports they don’t receive from the state and we feel we should be helped and recognised by the State.”
She suggested City Hall lease the vacant ABODE building in Mahon to them, but it is understood that council officials deem the building unsuitable.
Fianna Fáil councillor Nicholas O’Keeffe raised the club’s accommodation crisis at this week’s city council meeting and urged officials to identify premises in the area suitable to be leased.
“The Rainbow Club is operating at full capacity and has a waiting list of over 130 children,” he said. “A larger premises would be of significant benefit to the continued success of the club, and to the many children who benefit from it.”
The city’s head of corporate affairs, Paul Moynihan, said they will make contact with the club.
“We will determine their specific accommodation needs and provide practical assistance and guidance on possible alternative options and locations where appropriate,” said Mr Moynihan.