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Posted 03:30PM on Wednesday 03 November 2021

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens has won our Welcome Award for extending a right royal welcome to the people we support.

The award recognises businesses and organisations which go the extra mile to be inclusive.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens – cared for by Historic Royal Palaces – was nominated by Alison Milford, who runs our Families Matter Shared Lives Service, which enables people to spend time with a volunteer family to introduce them to new experiences and to give carers a break.

She said: “On a recent visit, nothing was too much trouble for the staff at the castle. The bus driver even brought one of our carers a cup of tea while he waited for the tour to finish, because a health condition meant he couldn’t join it.

“The tour guides were great fun and answered all our questions. The catering staff were very patient and made sure we were all able to sit together. It’s been nearly two years since we have been able to come together and celebrate the valuable role our carers play in the lives of the people they support, so it was particularly special to be so well treated on the day.”

Victoria Hatwell, Visitor Services Manager at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, said: ‘As guardians of one of Northern Ireland’s most important landmarks, we’re committed to ensuring that everyone who visits Hillsborough Castle and Gardens feels welcome and accepted, and are incredibly proud to have received the Positive Futures Welcome Award in recognition of our team’s sterling work.’

Part of the Welcome Award is a window sticker which assures people with a learning disability that they will be treated equally. Previous recipients include BBC Northern Ireland and Belfast International Airport.

Our Chief Executive, Agnes Lunny, said: “I was touched to hear Alison’s account of how well people were treated on their recent visit. It’s always heartwarming when businesses and organisations go the extra mile, and we like to recognise it when we hear about it.”

Our picture shows, from left to right, Andrew Potter (Positive Futures Marketing & Fundraising Officer), Stephanie Kenny (Families Matters Shared Lives Volunteer Carer), Anne Patrick (Person we support) and Victoria Hatwell (Visitor Services Manager, Hillsborough Palace & Gardens)