MyGroupNI Portal | Home 18 December 2014




 A group of concerned parents and carers of people with a learning disability in the County Down area came together in 1989 with one common goal – to create a local service providing the high quality care and support their loved ones required close to their family homes.

The result was the formation of a charity the following year – then called Downe Residential Project - which also recognised the need for the families and carers of those living with a learning disability to avail of support and assistance in the area.

Created as a direct response to the lack of necessary services available for people with severe learning disabilities, the charity began by providing residential care in Downpatrick.

The project, now called Mainstay DRP, has expanded and developed over the years adapting the type of care offered to clients as their individual needs change.

Respite care, supported housing, day-care services and vocational training are all provided alongside the original residential care facility. Most recently, the organisation has found that people with learning disabilities from outside the Down district are seeking to avail of their exceptional standard of quality care and support services.

Today, Mainstay DRP is one of the largest employers in the Downpatrick area providing jobs to 135 people.



Residential Care
The charity has almost two decades of experience providing residential care in Co Down. An exceptionally low staff turnover within the organisation has allowed a sense of security and familiarity to form between the staff and residents as well as ensuring a continuity of care.

The service is available at two houses - Iniscora and Inismor. Each resembling a large family home, a maximum of nine residents live in each building.


Respite Care
Recognising the need for parents and carers to have a break from the often stressful daily routine of looking after a person with a severe learning disability, a respite care service was developed by the charity to provide additional support to the family unit.

A service very much in demand, Mainstay DRP’s aim is to provide a memorable, fun-filled stay for those availing of respite. This short-term care service is provided at two tailor made bungalows - Ardcora and Iniscora.

Ardcora bungalow provides respite care throughout the year to over 25 adults with severe autism and severe learning from the Greater Belfast and South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust areas. Meanwhile, regular respite care is provided at Iniscora bungalow to 20 adults with learning disabilities from the Co Down area.


Supported Housing

Mainstay DRP is continually looking at ways to improve services and to meet the changing needs and expectations of service users.  The Ardcora supported service was established following the review of the service Mainstay provided in a large residential home for people with Autism which highlighted that it was no longer meeting the longer-term needs of residents.  The starting point was a long process of consultation and planning with service users and their families, the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Supporting People and Triangle Housing Association.  This strong and robust partnership helped guide the plans and build momentum and the search began to identify appropriate houses in the Downpatrick area, which would meet the often very complex needs of the service users and enable them to become active members of the local community. 

The six diverse houses chosen reflect the differing needs of the tenants and range in location from being in busy residential areas to the scenic and peaceful countryside on the outskirts of Downpatrick.   Each home is beautifully decorated and comfortable and provides the tenants with the choice and control over all aspects of their lives. 

The Ardcora supported housing service now provides tenants with the support they require to live in their own home and to actively participate in the local community.  Additionally, person-centred support programmes encourages tenants to build self- confidence and capacity, and to become more independent in all areas of their life. Tenants take responsibility for their own household tasks but like everyone else find the time to socialise, visit friends and family, enjoy shopping trips as well as range of other social activities. 

The service has changed lives by: creating opportunities for people to move out of residential homes where in many cases they have lived for years; opening a door back into the community for people who have been spent years in long-stay hospitals; and by giving other people the freedom to live independently after leaving their family home for the first time.   In addition, the new smaller, more person-centred environments have resulted in a significant reduction in the level of distress and challenging behaviours....   


Day Care
Pottery, woodwork, hands on horticulture lessons and computer studies are just a few of the numerous skills development activities devised as part of Mainstay DRP’s day care facilities.

And that’s not all…there’s also socialising to be done too!

With trips to the cinema, Belfast Zoo or relaxing yoga classes regularly organised, there is a something to suit everyone of the 65 adults with a learning disability using this service.



Vocational Training
The next time you visit the Down County Museum in Downpatrick, pop into the Gaoler’s Kitchen cafe.

There you’ll find the Mainstay DRP team cooking in the kitchen or serving customers a nice pot of tea.

Operated in partnership with the Down District Council and Down Lisburn Trust, The Gaoler’s Kitchen offers comfortable surroundings with spectacular views of both the Mound of Down and Inch Abbey.

Home made soup and a selection of filled pittas and wraps are just some of the dishes served with a smile to locals and tourists alike visiting the museum to find out more about historic eras such as Early Christianity, the Norman invasion, and, of course, Saint Patrick.

A popular eatery, Mainstay DRP provides opportunities for people with a learning disability to train in catering and customer service as part of the charity’s vocational training programme.

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