Robby Bradshaw was in the care system from being just six-months-old. By the age of 12, and living in a children’s home in Birkenhead, he was fed up and frustrated; he’d been moved around time after time.
When he then came to Yorkshire, starting as a pupil at Doncaster School for the Deaf, he told social services as much. Now 36, he recalls receiving the news he’d be staying put, becoming the first ever resident at Dickson House Children’s Home, created to house him and other young deaf children, which is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“I remember telling social services that I wanted to stay in Doncaster and that I was fed up of being moved around. The best news was when they told me that Dickson House was going to open for me and other children and we got to choose our bedrooms and enjoyed getting all the things to decorate them.
“I remember Kate (Warner, the home’s manager) and Maria (Dixon, deputy manager) who were there when Dickson House opened. They took us to get a film from Blockbusters and we had sweets and popcorn. I can’t remember what the film was, but it was such a nice memory of us sitting and watching the film together and eating the sweets.
“Kate and Maria taught me how to use the cooker and lots of other important daily living skills. We also used to go out to visit different places and have days out.
“When I left school and Dickson House I stayed in Doncaster as the town had become my home. I am now a father to three boys and live with my partner who I met at Doncaster Deaf College (now Communication Specialist College Doncaster).
“Before Dickson House opened it felt like there was no place for me. I suffered a lot through my childhood by being moved countless times to different places. Dickson House was the best thing that happened.”
Described as a ‘home from home’ for deaf children and young people, Dickson House is part of Doncaster Deaf Trust and has been providing care for two decades, offering school children a place to live while they study at Doncaster School for the Deaf.
Kate Warner, manager at the residential care home, which opened its doors in 2002, says: “There are very few specialist schools for the Deaf in the UK and even fewer that offer outstanding residential support for children alongside their education.
“We look after children who need weekly, or term-time accommodation while they are at school. We can also accommodate pupils who are in the care system who can stay with us for 52 weeks a year.”
Dickson House can provide accommodation for up to nine children with deafness as their primary need and care teams communicate with them in British Sign Language. It has communal areas including a playroom, and facilities such as football pitches, tennis courts and a sports hall.
Kate says: “We’ve looked after and cared for so many children and young people over the past 20 years and we look after them as if they were our own children. There are lots of outings to the local cinema, swimming pool, wildlife park and sports clubs. There is never a dull moment.
“We’re looking forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary with our staff and residents and look forward to caring for more Deaf children in Dickson House in the future.”