A COUPLE'S dream of opening a multi-million pound disability day centre in Bicester is gaining pace as plans are set to be submitted next month.

Parents Rachael and Ian Scott-Hunter say this will be a 'pinnacle year' for the Alexandra House project which aims to provide a place for adults with learning difficulties, while plugging the gap in support services caused by countless funding cuts.

It follows their own experience with daughter Alexandra who has severe learning difficulties and the couple say it is a constant battle convincing people to support a charity for adults in similar situations.

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Mrs Scott-Hunter, who at age 72 is heading the project herself, said: "We are still struggling – I have tried everything I can.

"Locally we still are not really known, but there is a nucleus of people who are supporting us and we are doing door-to-doors in Bicester to help spread the word."

Cuts in 2017 saw the number of council-run day centres in Oxfordshire fall from 22 to eight last year and groups such as the one Alexandra attends at the former Bicester Health and Wellbeing Centre are now shared between the elderly and those with learning disabilities.

Mrs Scott-Hunter says the changes were not appropriate to share care between both groups and as a result have forced many elderly residents away from the support.


The charity Alexandra House of Joy was set up in response to the cuts and to drive forwards the project and help fundraise the estimated £2.5 million needed to create the centre.

Mrs Scott-Hunter added: "It is a combination of being a massive challenge and it being for adults with disabilities. They are discriminated against, not by everybody but it is a challenge we face as there is a lack of empathy towards adults with disabilities.

"When Alexandra was a child people were absolutely behind us and wanted to help, and fundraise for support. The minute she became an adult that support and funding seemed to stop all of a sudden – the adult world just doesn’t get it.

"I find people are embarrassed or don’t know what to say so just avoid the subject. It is all sorts of reasons but for me they never asked to be like this and they deserve just as much life as we have.

"There are entitled to be valued within the community and I have a passion for that and want to challenge it."

Mrs Scott-Hunter has used that passion to develop plans for the centre, with help from a small team of volunteers and contacts.

The project was gifted an unidentified piece of land, estimated to be worth £1million, in the town in March and contracts are said to have been exchanged last month with final confirmation of ownership the final step.

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The next major milestone for the charity is now also within reach as planning applications are due to be submitted next month.

Plans include a number of respite care beds, a music room, sensory room and gardens, activity room and, eventually, a hydrotherapy pool.

Mrs Scott-Hunter said: "When the time comes we will be exchanging for £1 which is just amazing, I still can’t get over the fact we have been gifted the land."

The charity has also been forging ahead with fundraising and has recently hit the £50,000 mark to help towards building costs.

Mrs Scott-Hunter added: "I am just in awe of people and how generous and supporting they have been. Even our conveyance solicitor is working for us at a reduced fixed rate, everyone involved is being so compassionate about the project.

"We have a lot of hurdles to go yet, but as much as I keep saying it I am just in awe of the support we have had.

"This is the pinnacle year for us and we have to put in a big drive for fundraising. It is a big battle."


The couple are now looking at offering a buy-a-brick scheme where people can donate to the physical build.

Mrs Scott-Hunter has recorded the name of everyone who has supported the cause and said it was important for everyone to be recognised as helping bring the project to life.

She said: "To me this is very precious, as it is all about whoever has been a part of this to make it happen. I am really hopeful that Bicester gets behind and can do something big to bring forward this unique and very different project."

The charity is hosting a fundraising quiz in Chesterton on February 22, and a big fundraising dinner on March 30.

To donate or enquire about tickets see alexandrahouseofjoy.co.uk