Browsing through archive books and photo albums are (front from left) Tina Wishart (staff member), Heather Mowatt, Lynda Tayles and Colleen Inwood (Mackenzie Community Group committee). At rear (from left) are Ann Craig (volunteer) and clients Annette Brown, Hayden Esker, Andrew Rankin and Jo Inwood.

An Ashburton group that has supported adults with intellectual disabilities over the past 30 years is being run on a shoestring and struggling to survive.

The Ashburton Mackenzie Community Group brings clients together twice a week to build social skills, self esteem and friendships.

The group is staffed by two part-timers and supported by volunteers.

Group supervisor Lynda Tayles said the past two years had seen funding from COGS and Lotteries cut back and other funding reduced and harder to access.

“We do run on a shoestring budget and the financial buffer we once had is long gone.

“When we apply for funds, we apply for what we need because we want to keep this group running.”

Mrs Tayles said the Mackenzie Community Group was “all about the clients and their needs”.

“There is a continuing need for the service after 30 years because no other group or organisation in Ashburton is there to support these people in the same way we do.”

There are currently 16 clients in the group, which is down on typical past numbers of 25 past numbers because of caution around covid and fewer referrals.

Clients gather on Mondays and Thursday from 9am until 2.30pm in the Doris Linton Lounge at the RSA to interact and to share lunch.

The group has met at the RSA since 2012 when it needed to exit the Mackenzie Centre on Mona Square, which was the group’s original home.

Heather Mowatt, who has a son with special needs, was on the group’s original steering committee 30 years ago.

She said the group had provided invaluable support for hundreds of adults with intellectual disabilities and their families over that time.

A committee had been formed and a public meeting held after CCS Disability had announced it was no longer running or funding an adult group in Ashburton, she said.

The group had been named after the Mackenzie Foundation, which had offered support, funding and a meeting venue.

Mrs Mowatt said early funding had also come from COGS and the Ashburton Trust and other local and out of town funders, which all saw the value of the service provided.

Some clients over the years have gone on to be independent, while others have been in the group for many years.

“There is no remission for people born with disabilities, nor for their families or carers.

“It’s a matter of managing things as best you can and getting support where you can,” Mrs Tayles said.

Anyone wanting to find out more about the Mackenzie Community Group can arrange to come along to one of the two weekly sessions.

Prospective clients can do trial visits.

To arrange a visit or to support the group financially contact Lynda Tayles on 022 410 2529.

-By Mick Jensen