August 3, 2020

Happy Birthday Robins!

As Robins turns 21 we look back to its beginnings and what makes it so special

At Lifeworks we support people to have a great life. We deliver outstanding needs led services to achieve this, so that people with learning disabilities can and do develop the skills and confidence to always reach their full potential.

Our journey started in Dartington 21 years ago by a group of parents and teachers of young people with learning disabilities. Shortly after completion HRH Princess Anne joined us as we officially marked the opening of our first service – Robins. This month we are celebrating Robins turning 21 – historically a Birthday marking the transition into adulthood and independence.

Looking back to the beginning of Robins

Happy birthday robins! 1

When we launched this important service in 1999 it was ‘the realisation of a three year dream’ and a ‘belief that through the promotion of independence, training at the centre, every child will be helped to reach their potential; helping them to lead fulfilling lives’. Our belief in the people we support is still what drives us to continue to develop our services so we can meet their needs in ways they need us to:


We believe that by raising the aspirations of people with learning disabilities they will achieve an ambitious future.


We believe everyone has the right to a happy, safe and fulfilled life.


We believe in the rights of all individuals with a learning disability, however complex, to receive the services and support they need to achieve their very best futures.


We are a learning organisation and driven to continuously innovate, develop, evaluate and improve.


We invest in staff at all levels of the organisation so they are supported to deliver their very best at all times.


Everything we do must be outstanding for those who use our services, their families and those who invest in us.

We have grown a lot since 1999

  • We evolved from being called The Bidwell Brook Foundation to Lifeworks Charity Ltd, or simply Lifeworks.
  • We have expanded our services to enable us to support hundreds of children, young people and adults with learning disabilities each year
  • We now provide residential and short breaks, specialist further education, and numerous community projects with our young people leading the way.

Our approach as a charity, which is to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities and their families, has not changed. Our essence is still the same as it always was.

Dedicated staff team

Bronwyn is one of the support team at Robins and has been with us since the very beginning, completing her first ever shift there in 1999 soon after we opened.

“From the very first day I felt at home straight away. It was happy, relaxed, the staff were welcoming and the children were amazing! It was like one big family, with the staff and children always doing something fun and that hasn’t really changed.

All of the families are still in need of the care we give to their young person and them. You can tell the relief for them when they know their young person is coming to what is like their extended family to have fun, be safe and looked after.

Over the years we’ve seen many young people move on because they have grown up. This never becomes any easier but you know it is the best thing for them. We receive a lot of gratitude from families who tell us we have helped to keep the family together by providing short breaks for them.

I’ve seen things some things change, such as how the outside world has become more accessible. Activities are more varied and our young people better catered for – we go swimming a lot more, rock climbing, you can even go wheelchair climbing – an activity which would have been a dream back at the beginning. We do so many activities with the young people that they wouldn’t otherwise access if they were at home because their families might not know about it, or feel confident doing it or wouldn’t have the money. When people come to us, we can push them that much further.

Life-skills have always been key at Robins. We still have goals and targets for people to achieve from the basics such as cleaning your own teeth to washing, cooking, budgeting and shopping. All of the goals are still different depending on the needs of the young person to help them to become increasingly independent – not everyone will be able to cook a full meal but they will be able to help mix a cake.

I like working at Robins for so many reasons – it is the whole place, the atmosphere, knowing I am helping young people to become the best they can. Some of the young people we support may not live to adulthood. I want to make sure they have a good time while they are here. Experiencing new things and having fun.

Robins is so important to the families in giving them that much needed break. We have parents arriving and they haven’t slept for a week because of caring for their child 24/7 for 7 days a week. When they come back to pick up their child following a short break stay they say, ‘thank you, I needed that – I’ve had sleep. I’ve managed to eat a decent meal. I’ve socialised and I feel more human now’. And importantly the young people are recharged and have great experiences that they might not otherwise get.

It is really hard to think of one memorable moment from over the years, because every day at Robins something memorable happens. A young person cleaning their teeth or holding a spoon and feeding themselves for the first time – those are memorable events. It is the little steps that most people might not think are very memorable but to us are significant. We have had children’s first words spoken at Robins. Someone saying ‘Hi’ to you for the first time. Or when there is a young person who doesn’t give you much eye contact and you sit on the floor with them and they stare right into your eyes. It’s those little things (or what everyday people would say are little) that to people with children with learning disability are massive things. Those are the ones which stick in your mind. It is a massive thing, when people reach targets and milestones – whatever they are.

Every young person at Robins has a learning disability and a need in some way. Although we know that, we don’t see the need or the learning disability we see the young person. The disability is not what leads, we see them and strive for them to be the best that they can.”

Happy Birthday!


So, to all of the young people, families, staff, volunteers and supporters – thank you for making Robins the magical home that it is. And to Robins – Happy Birthday!

If you want to find out more about short breaks at Robins please get in touch via our contact us form.

If you want to join the team at Robins we are recruiting. You can apply via our vacancies page.

Skip to content