SUPER swimmer Josef Craig has launched a £3m state-of-the-art specialist centre in South Tyneside.
The Paralympic gold medal winner was chosen to open Deneside Court in St Joseph’s Way, Jarrow, because of his “inspirational” qualities in overcoming his cerebral palsy to become a world-class swimmer.
Built on the site of the former Deneside Club in Fellgate, the home will provide care for about 40 people with neurological, physical and learning disabilities.
The centre, which will create up to 100 jobs, will also provide permanent, short stay and respite care plus emergency placements.
Welcoming Josef Craig to yesterday’s launch, owners Careline Lifestyles also announced a sponsorship deal for the Jarrow swimmer.
Unveiling a plaque to launch the complex, the 15-year-old Jarrow pool star said: “I would like to say I’m very privileged to open the home. I get great support from my friends and family, but unfortunately some people aren’t able to access that kind of support.
“This is a lovely place, and I want to thank you for this honour.”
The first service users will start moving into the facility within weeks, following pre-admission assessments.
Barry Speker, a non-executive director of Careline Lifestyles, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Josef is our official opener, as he has inspired us and the whole country.”
Mr Speker also announced that Careline would sponsor the South Tyneside swimmer’s future career.
Deneside Court incorporates everything from a hydrotherapy pool to sensory and fitness rooms, an educational suite and units for individual needs.
Some residents initially opposed the scheme, because of its proximity to housing and a local school, and because of fears over individuals who would be cared for.
The care home scheme was originally rejected by South Tyneside Council, but granted on appeal.
However, recent positive feedback to the company suggests such fears have been allayed.
Careline spokesman Moya Goodyear said: “The feedback from people to the scheme has been absolutely fabulous.
“We have had various officials from the local council, churches, clubs and other agencies touring the home and they have been 100 per cent positive.”