A good crowd of service users, carers, service staff and local politicians turned out to see the first turf cut for the new Eric Gray centre on a damp and chilly afternoon.
The new centre for adults with support needs is planned to be finished in two years by contractors DITT.
It will bring all services for vulnerable adults under one roof and end uncertainty over the future of the service that has haunted parents and carers for years.
Around a dozen politicians, service users and carers as well as DITT boss Peter Tait conducted the ceremonial turf cutting in the drizzle at Seafield in Lerwick.
Prior to that, chairman of the council’s social services committee Cecil Smith said that he was sure from the smiles on the faces of the assembled crowd that everyone was “as delighted and excited” as he was.
He added: “We are not going to look at the length of time it has taken, or anything that has happened in the past – we look to the future and I look forward to seeing this building up and open in two years time.”
SIC adult services executive manager Clare Scott said that the new centre would be a “hub” bringing together services dispersed among the Eric Gray Centre, Gressy Loan, shared with the schools’ service and one or two other areas.
Ms Scott added: “It will provide facilities for adults with learning disabilities and autism. It will be purpose built, it will be modern and it will support individuals to do different programmes of work and it will also bring people together and offer opportunity for further joint working as well.”
Leslie Smith of the parents’ group, himself a parent carer, said: “It’s been a long process and to say that we are delighted is an understatement. But we are here today to witness the final lifting of the turf of the new building, which we do look forward to and developing young adult’s care for Shetland’s future.”
He thanked Cecil Smith, Eric Gray Centre manager Connie Russell and Ms Scott for their energy and parts they had played in the project.
Mr Tait said that he was impressed with the numbers who had turned out. This showed how much the new centre “meant to so many folk and what it was going to mean to their lives when it was all finished. We will make sure we do a good job as usual.”
Afterwards Mr Smith said: “For me it’s a milestone. We have been trying to get this place biggit now for a number of years. It is an important day for me and I think it is an important day for the service users, their families and the staff who have suffered the delay that has been ongoing for a peerie while but now I am pleased to see they are here today and the job they have done.
“I look forward to 24 months from now when somebody will be opening it.”
• More in this week’s Shetland Times.