Toggle menu

Former school building providing safe and supportive homes

A new scheme made up of specialist homes tailored to residents' needs has been officially opened.

Old school opening

Washington Old School was originally Biddick School, and the building stood empty for 20 years before Sunderland City Council restored and extended the premises to create 15 specialist apartments for vulnerable adults.

One of the first residents to move into their new home was Robert Richardson, 34, from Biddick. Robert, who is diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia, had spent time between hospital and care facilities before being allocated an apartment at the Old School House.

He now enjoys living somewhere where he can be more independent, but still be close to his family in Biddick. He said: "It's really good, I get to see my friends and the staff are great. I like that it's close to my mam and I can have my family nearby."

Robert's mam, Barbara Richardson, 67, was a former pupil of Biddick School. She has welcomed the transformation into supported accommodation as it is the right level of support for Robert, and it allows him to stay in Washington near his family while living somewhere tailored to his needs.

She said: "As soon as I heard that the school would become supported housing, I was keen to get Robert a flat. I kept enquiring and watching the development and when we found out Robert got a place we were absolutely over the moon.

"As soon as he moved in, he loved it. He's gone from strength to strength; he has more confidence, he's made new friends, and he's very happy."

Barbara continued: "The support available is just right for Robert; he gets help with his housework and support to keep on top of things but he's able to do his own thing, see his friends who also live there, and he loves sitting out in the garden."

The new apartments were completed by Brims Construction after being developed by the council's Housing Development Team as part of plans to deliver more homes for the residents most at need in the city. Under these plans, the city council is providing much-needed homes and one-storey accommodation for people living with disabilities as well as older residents.

All apartments at the Old School House benefit from a high-quality specification developed with the end user in mind and the development boasts a landscaped courtyard for residents to enjoy, including seating designed by a local artist. 

Graham King, Director of Adult Services and Chief Operating Officer of Sunderland Care and Support, said: "These homes have been specially designed to meet the needs of vulnerable adults, with support on hand to help all residents lead independent lives. It's brilliant to see occupants moved into their homes and enjoying the community feel of these bungalows while having access to everything they need."

Graham Scanlon, Assistant Director of Housing Services at Sunderland City Council, said: "We're delighted that the Old School House is making such a positive difference to Robert and the other residents.

"This scheme sits beautifully alongside a community of homes that we developed as a local authority in 2021. It is just the latest project we have carried out to ensure the city benefits from a wider range of properties to support the needs of vulnerable residents and those living with disabilities."

The development also received £600,000 grant funding support from Homes England. Andrea Taylor, Senior Manager at Homes England, said: "As the Government's housing and regeneration agency, increasing the supply of quality affordable homes remains one of our key objectives and we are committed to supporting ambitious housebuilders of all sizes to build those homes and communities. 

"This investment through the Affordable Homes Programme allows our partners and registered providers to do just that, it has enabled Sunderland City Council to build 15 much needed new homes the people of Washington can be proud of."

Share this page

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email