EU funding has allowed a care farm to put up a purpose-built building to allow it to work in comfort and expand.
The Cart Lodge, officially opened on Monday, at Sunset Barn Care Farm in Lakenheath received a 40 per cent EU rural economic development grant, via Defra, towards the 56ft by 30ft building on a working farm run by Melanie and Russell Smith.
Melanie said: “We used to use our own house, which has one loo and one entrance.
“Now we’ve got two loos then we’ve got a wash area before you get to the entrance so they don’t need to use the loos if they just want to wash their hands. There’s also a sitting area in the lounge, a kitchen and a meeting room.
“It gives us more capacity so we can have more people.”
There is a covered work area outside and upstairs rooms that still have to be fitted out, but they hope to create bedrooms so carers can take respite breaks at weekends.
It was built by Lakenheath company SJL Services.
The care farm offers day care places for people with poor mental health, physical and learning difficulties and young people struggling with mainstream education.
It is aimed at those wishing to work in horticultural and animal husbandry to improve their self esteem and develop new practical and social skills.
Sunset Barn Care farm is on three acres owned by the Smiths next to the 180 acre Suffolk County Council farm they rent where they grow sugarbeet and wheat.
Melanie said: “That’s unusual with care farms. If there’s something going on on the wider farm, we can walk down and show them.”
She and Russell are from farming backgrounds . After leaving school with poor results, Melanie became a secretary until she saw an advert in the Bury Free Press for a sessional worker with children and young adults.
That led to her getting degrees in psychology and social work.
She recalled: “We went to a farm diversification talk at Suffolk County Council and care farming was talked about. I had the skills and knew we had the resources – we had to do it.”
The care farm began three years ago with one day a week from April to August but now runs five days a week, year round.