Newport's Serennu Children's Centre a 'lifeline'
A new £6m centre which brings together treatment and care for children with disabilities under one roof has been called a "lifeline" by parents.
The Serennu Children's Centre in Newport means young patients can have different specialist appointments scheduled in the same place, and cut down on travelling between hospitals and clinics.
Three-year-old Darcie has Down's Syndrome.
Her mother Frances Jenkins said: "We would have hearing in Cwmbran, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy in one clinic in Newport, an eye specialist at another clinic in Newport, and would see a paediatrician at the Royal Gwent Hospital.
"Some weeks I would spend 20 hours a week getting to different appointments."
As well as NHS outpatient and medical treatment rooms, facilities include a sensory garden, hydrotherapy pool, gym, cafe, and a 3D medi-cinema, due to be opened by the end of the year.
Serennu, which means "to sparkle" in Welsh, opened in April after 20 years of planning and fundraising by the South Gwent Children's Foundation.
Core funding came from the Welsh Government. Volunteers raised the rest and admit it has been a "long slog".
The foundation's chairman Dr Sabine Maquire said: "There have been points along the way where I know my co-trustees, and others, have doubted whether we could do it.
"I would say to others 'you can do it, but you have to be passionate, you have to stick with it, and you will need the support of your volunteers, your parents, and the business community. You need everyone to share your vision'."
Spending time at the centre allows families the chance to meet and socialise together, as Frances Jenkins explains.
"There's a social aspect to this centre, not just a medical aspect and I think that is very important, especially when, quite often, you feel cut off.
"It's almost like the bringing together of one big unit, a family unit, and that's important because it can be very isolating."
Centre manager, Donna Wilson, believes Serennu offers something unique.
"It's not just about medical care and treatment, it's a family facility.
"It has leisure facilities, we're hoping to have a youth club for disabled children, there are sports facilities for disabled children. We want this to be a holistic family experience."
The charity, Children in Wales, welcomes the opening of the centre, but believes people with disabilities should not have to be treated separately.
Development officer Catherine Lewis said: "I think it would be really good if disabled children and young people are able to access mainstream services because it would help show they are people first and that they've got a disability second.
"I very much support what's happened at Serennu, it's a flagship centre and it's a wonderful development, but it would be great to see services mainstreamed across all of Wales."