THE UK’s first hotel for young people with autism and learning difficulties is moving closer to opening, with the appointment of an experienced centre manager.
The former Rivers Edge Hotel at Gateshead is to be transformed into The Vault by the St Camillus Care Group, which will not only provide respite care but will also double as a facility for young people with a range of learning difficulties to train for the hospitality industry.
And now the owners have appointed Holly Kelleher as centre manager, who has joined the project after gaining years of experience working with young people with challenges.
Holly, 36, from Prudhoe, is a member of BASE – the British Association of Supported Employment – which actively campaigns to help people with disabilities find work.
She has worked in the sector in a variety of roles including acting as Employment Support Manager for Gateshead Council and heading up their award-winning scheme to get people with learning difficulties into work.
Holly also knows on a personal level the challenges facing people with autism, as her 17-year-old son suffers from the condition.
“It’s very exciting to be involved in this project and for me it is about people with a disability getting the same opportunities as everyone else,” she said.
“People coming to The Vault will get a unique, bespoke opportunity to train which hopefully should prepare them for work in the hospitality industry.”
Holly is equally as passionate about the facilities and experiences that will be offered to young people who visit The Vault for respite care.
“Respite care is about the carers getting a well-deserved break but that doesn’t mean the person who is having the break shouldn’t also get a proper holiday,” she said.
“We are going to ensure that the people who come here get to do the things that everyone else gets to do on holiday, which hopefully includes lots of new facilities and activities.”
John Heron, who runs the St Camillus Care Group said he was delighted to have Holly on board.
“Holly’s experience is invaluable to us and she knows from both a personal and professional level the importance of us providing the very service to everyone who comes to stay or to train at The Vault,” he said.
Work is set to begin soon on the £2m renovation scheme at the hotel, which also has a function room and an American style diner.
St Camillus Care Group has partnered with Gateshead College and its Project Choice scheme – which helps young people with autism and learning difficulties find internships – to help the young people learn the skills they need for a career in hospitality.