By Andrew Kennedy

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We’ve awarded a grant to a vital Northern Ireland project to provide assistance dogs for young people with autism and people with disabilities.

Local charity Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland recently received £9,727 from our Awards For All  programme  to buy pups, have them fostered for 18 months, and then train them to help improve the quality of life for the people they support.

The charity’s chair, Elizabeth Black, uses a wheelchair and trained her own dog Barnaby to help her with the everyday tasks most people take for granted. She explained that the grant will allow the charity to get its first dogs. “I use a wheelchair and have my own assistance dog, Barnaby, who is a King Charles Spaniel and he is a huge support to me, she said.

“But there is very little support for assistance dogs for people with disabilities or children with autism in Northern Ireland,” she said. “This funding will be used to source three or four dogs and will cover the costs associated with fostering and training them.

“A dog can be trained to do things like loading and unloading a washing machine, switching lights on and off, picking up something that has fallen or lifting the post – things that Barnaby does for me. This increases the independence and mobility of a person with a disability.

“Assistance dogs are also a great benefit to children with autism as they can protect them and also be a source of comfort, helping to calm them and make them feel safe.

“This grant is fantastic because we needed money to start the process off. We hope that this will raise awareness and encourage more support so we can train and provide more dogs for disabled people and children with autism in Northern Ireland.”

To find out more about the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards For All programme, or to download and application form and guidance notes, visit:

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