FORMER Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and his wife Montse have cut the turf to mark the start of construction of Wirral Autistic Society's state-of-the-art living accommodation.

After two years of planning and costing £617,000 - which was raised by the charity’s Lifetime Appeal - it is the first phase of a ten-year project to modernise all residential facilities on the society’s Raby site.

The first day of the build was marked by a ceremonial ground-breaking attended by the mayor, Cllr Dave Mitchell, on hs final day in office.

Rafa and Montse Benitez, who have a home in Wirral and whose Montse Benitez Foundation supports local charities, cut the first piece of turf for the foundations.

Montse said: “The foundation is very proud to support the exceedingly good and dedicated work of the Wirral Autistic Society. Autism has such a huge impact on all the family.

"Wirral should be very proud to have such a fantastic facility on its doorstep.”

The high tech building will be a lifelong home for eight people who have autism but also severe communication and sensory difficulties.

Raby Hall, which will overlook it, has been providing residential accommodation for people with autism and complex needs since 1977, but the building was never designed to be autism-specific and is in need of modernisation. The new build is the first phase of a project to modernise the entire site.

The new building will feature mood lighting, wide corridors and under-floor heating.

There will also be modern laundry and kitchen facilities and en-suite bathrooms to ensure privacy, dignity and independence for residents.

One of the building’s future residents will be Thomas Whelan, 23, who has been living at Raby Hall for five years. His mother, Becky, said: “Thomas is being looked after by fabulous, dedicated people. We are so excited that he’ll be moving into the new building.

“It’s going to be wonderful for him – he’ll be more independent and he’ll still be amongst friends from Raby Hall. It was exciting to attend the launch event, after all this time fundraising. I can’t wait to see the first bricks going in.”

Robin Bush, Chief Executive of WAS, said, “Good quality residential accommodation for people with autism is in incredibly short supply right across the country and yet it is well documented that the environment in which they live can have a profound impact on their health and well-being.

“We want to create a home for life, where carers can help the residents build their confidence and self-esteem, achieving the best possible quality of life in an environment which can be adapted to their individual needs.

“We see this is a lasting legacy which can be passed on to future generations in Wirral.”