Break charity to close Rainbow holiday centre in Sheringham

Break is to close its Rainbow Holiday Centre in Sheringham, once the flagship of the major north Norfolk-based charity.

Rainbow's 30 staff were told this week that the Hooks Hill Road centre will close in January 2013 after providing a welcome to thousands of children and adults with disabilities for the past 38 years.

Break chief executive Chris Hoddy said he recognised that the news was a 'massive shock and terribly upsetting.'

But he said most guests staying at Rainbow nowadays were adults and the decision had been taken because the charity wants to concentrate on its declared aims of supporting children and families, and expand.

Mr Hoddy added that he hoped expansion would create jobs for most, if not all, of the Rainbow staff. The charity could have taken the 'easy option'and closed the centre in three months' time, making staff redundant.

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Instead, there would be a long lead-in period to closure allowing time for staff to come to terms with the decision and explore other options.

'Break will work with its staff to ensure that the service at Rainbow is maintained to its high standards until the closure date and that guests continue to enjoy their holidays,' Mr Hoddy added. Break would also help regular guests find alternative holiday providers.

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Social and economic changes had seen a fall in the number of parents seeking a holiday for their children at Rainbow, which costs �770,000 a year to run, said Mr Hoddy.

Over the past two years 92pc of those staying at the centre, which caters for 10 guests at a time, had been adults.

'We're a charity that is making a clear statement that we concentrate on children and families. It makes it difficult when most of the people staying at Rainbow are adults - we can't marry those two things together,' he added.

Many people still thought of Break solely as a charity which provided holidays and short breaks for disabled people, or ran charity shops, but in fact Break, which employs almost 450 staff, now ran 17 projects across Norfolk, Suffolk and into Cambridgeshire, he said.

It already had seven children's homes, was opening an eighth, in Thetford, this November, a ninth was planned in Cambridgeshire early next year, and the hunt was on for suitable premises in Norfolk for a 10th.

By the end of this year Break also expected to become registered as a foster-care agency and it wanted to continue to expand and meet the needs of vulnerable children and families.

Mr Hoddy believes one reason for the fall in the number of children using Rainbow is that parents increasingly prefer support in their homes or local community and there are also a growing number who want their disabled child to join the rest of the family on holiday.

The early 20th-century Rainbow building is one of three neighbouring properties owned by Break. Another, a former day centre for adults with learning difficulties, closed last year. The third is still running as a specialist centre.

Mr Hoddy said Break chiefs would be discussing various options for the future of the three buildings. He pledged that any cash from sales would be ploughed back into the charity's work.

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