MINDLESS thieves have stolen a "crucial" minibus from a learning disabilities charity – leaving devastated staff facing a £15,000 bill to replace it.

The large, white bus was stolen from outside the Myriad Centre, in St George's Walk, Worcester, overnight on Tuesday.

The Iveco minibus – which has 'Myriad Centre' emblazoned on the sides – is specially adapted to safely carry up to six wheelchair users and contains clamps, along with other equipment, worth thousands of pounds.

It was used every day to transport people with profound and severe learning disabilities to the centre from their homes across Worcestershire.

The charity says that, once insurance is factored in, it will have to raise £12-15,000 to buy a replacement bus and equipment.

Chief executive Simon Quigley was woken with the shocking news early on Tuesday morning.

"[I am] hugely frustrated, hugely annoyed and quite disappointed in the world we live in," he said.

"The people who stole our bus are quite literally taking money away from the most vulnerable.

"Now we are left really, really struggling.

"We need to replace that bus as soon as we can. As a charity we are not exactly overflowing with money – it is going to be a challenge for us."

The charity provides leisure activities, physiotherapy, trips, learning opportunities and many other services, along with being an important social centre for those who use it.

The charity has four more minibuses – although one is off the road at the moment – but says the theft leaves them without adequate capacity to transport all its users to the centre.

It is now appealing for help from the community to provide temporary replacement transport, so its service users can continue to visit the centre.

"We will get people in here if we have to push them in by ourselves," said Mr Quigley.

"At no point will we say they can't come into the centre. Staff will just work twice as hard and do double runs."

The Myriad Centre has recently been awarded a £10,000 grant from Worcester News' publisher Gannett Foundation to buy a new, inflatable sports arena.

And work to revamp parts of the centre had been planned this year, however this may now be postponed while cash is scraped together for a new minibus.

Police are investigating and appealing for witnesses. Anyone with information should call 101, quoting incident 81S of Tuesday, February 7.