Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland respite facility for disabled children closed temporarily after thieves take heating oil

By Jonathan Bell

Thieves who took heating oil from a special care unit which provides respite to disabled children and their parents were branded despicable.

“They must have known what the home was, they must have known what they were taking, they can’t have known the very real distress and disruption caused to disabled children,” MLA Roy Beggs told the Belfast Telegraph.

Around 1,500litres valued around £1,000 of home heating oil was taken from the Whitehaven Respite Unit in Whitehead over the new year period. It was only discovered when the facility re-opened on Monday.

Staff said five children were set to stay the night in the facility and were very excited and when they were told they couldn’t some became very distressed.

MLA Roy Beggs said: “It’s a home many of the children look forward to visiting. They get a bit of a break from home, they get to meet others and have a social life with friends. It would be very important to them.

“Also the parents get a chance to recharge their batteries and this would have thrown everything up in the air.

“Theft is wrong no matter who or what it is, but it is all the more despicable when it’s from a home which provides such a vital service for disabled children.”

Mr Beggs added: “There is no way those responsible couldn’t have known what they were taking and from who. I know it disrupted the service until the supply could be replenished. They probably thought it was easy pickings.

“But it couldn’t have operated without heat and I am sure it would have been very difficult to explain to the children what happened and why they were having to move.

“The children have significant needs and it was probably inappropiate to continue without heat.

Police are investigating and urged the public to ensure home heating oil tanks are secure.

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