The Orchardville Society

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Project Connect

Project Connect – connecting young people with learning disability and/ or autism spectrum condition with the support they need to successfully transition from school to adult life

The Orchardville Society is delighted to announce Big Lottery Funding under the Empowering Young People Programme to deliver Project Connect, a Transition Service for young people with Learning Disability

Project Connect will work intensively with young people aged 14-20 with learning disability and/or autism spectrum condition to prepare them for the crucial transition from school to further education, training or employment.

70 places will be available annually, over 4 years, for young people attending special education and specialist units within mainstream education in the Belfast, Ards & North Down, Lisburn & Castlereagh and Antrim & Newtownabbey District Council areas. The project will work the young people to develop independence by offering

·         a range of training, such as independent travel and money management

·         opportunities for job tasters , work experience and volunteering

·         transition workshops focusing  on practical preparation  and planning for leaving school tailored to the individual needs of each young person.

Sian McKinty whose daughter Beth has been supported by Orchardville’s existing transition service said “the transitions service has been helping Beth with training courses and getting her into work placements and it has also been stretching for us as parents”. She went on to say “what they have done to me as a mummy has been amazing because its opened my eyes as to what is out there for Beth.”

Margaret Haddock, MBE, CEO of Orchardville said “ we are delighted to have received funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Empowering Young People programme to deliver Project Connect, which will address the well documented gap in the practical implementation of the formal transition plans carried out in special education and specialist units within mainstream education. We know from experience that early, person centred intervention with young people in school will achieve a more successful transition to adult life and greater independence.”



·         The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.

·         Since June 2004 we have awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people. Every year we fund 13,000 small local projects tackling big social problems like poor mental health and homelessness.


·         Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £34 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.

·         Orchardville Society is a charity registered with the Charity Commission NI (NIC 102003)

·         Orchardville Society prepares over 300 young people and adults with learning disability and/or autism spectrum condition annually for employment and greater independence.

·         Statistics from Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service (NINIS) show that post primary pupils with Special Education Needs (SEN)have seen a steady rise from 14.2% in 2007 to 19.7% in 2012, equating to 62,685 pupils with SEN



Margaret Haddock, CEO, Orchardville Society

028 9073 2326 or 07801 548306

Lydia Lynas, Head of Employment & Skills, Orchardville Society

028 9073 2326 or 07725 305581