Not so long ago if a child was diagnosed as being moderately disabled or “handicapped” as it was known then, their tragic fate would have been to spend the rest of their lives in an institution. Thankfully so much has changed since then, due in no small way to the efforts of parents and organisations who have campaigned tirelessly to give their loved ones the opportunity to reach their potential. Such a group of visionary people were to the fore in Carlow over twenty years ago when their drive and determination helped to establish Delta Centre.

At the time there was nowhere in the region for people with moderate learning disabilities to go once they had finished school. The consequences were dire for the young adults, left without a place to develop their skills, nurture their personal development or enhance their sense of belonging and self-esteem. In 1987 a group called Carlow Parents and Friends Association was very concerned about this situation and began a campaign to establish suitable services. To the fore in this campaign was Eileen Brophy, a mother herself with a young daughter with moderate learning difficulties. She knew better than most the problems that existed for young people with special needs. The group continued to put pressure on the health board to provide suitable services and in 1989 they got their chance.

The original Carlow Radiators Factory came up for sale and through a combination of funding from the association and the health board they converted the factory into the first Delta care centre. A short time later with just fi ve trainees, they moved into their current premises in Strawhall Industrial Estate, were they have flourished over the past 21 years.The name Delta stands for development, education, learning, training and activation. But it also signifies a triangle, open at one end, sheltered by three sides, but still leaving room to grow. Over its 21 years the centre has strived to live up to the principals of its name and the result in a progressive and fantastic service that those who established Delta would have only dreamed about all those years ago.

Trainees begin at 18 then depending of their level of ability can avail of services which include rehabilitation, training, numeracy and literacy, catering, horticulture, education or work experience. Trainees come to the centre every day, learn new skills, make new friends and can also get jobs in the workplace through a supported employment programme. Trainees from Delta have worked in many hotels, supermarkets and retail outlets in the area, a hugely positive experience that give them a sense of responsibility and identity.

From humble beginnings Delta Centre is now an expansive centre, which incorporates a public coffee shop, garden centre, multi-sensory rooms, technology training rooms, their award winning OT so long ago if a child sensory garden and much much more. The Delta Centre now has 91 service users, with a further four due to begin this September. The centre, including its residential homes throughout the town, now employs an incredible 60 full time staff and 20 part-time staff.

None of this would have been possible without the vision of those who campaigned for Delta all those years ago or the unstinting support of the people of Carlow and so many organisations and businesses through the region that donated, and continue to donate to Delta so generously.