Finally the council have admitted that they plan to build new offices on the site of the Queen’s Road Day Centre.
The uncertainty and the council’s inability to provide a clear answer on what the future holds for the users of this centre is maddening to watch.
Maddening, that after months of speculation the council have now said that it is their preferred site for new offices – why could they not tell the users earlier?
Maddening, because it’s still unclear whether another site will be found for the day centre, perhaps because they fear by listing other sites, there will be a backlash from people occupying those sites.
And maddening because the council are in actual fact trying to use the sites for the common good, but to date they appear to have failed to work with the people they are trying to help.
The offices are in the council’s own words to house those who work with the most vulnerable people in our borough. Currently housed in offices in Sumner Road, this site is earmarked for desperately needed council housing. The irony cannot be missed. Desperately needed council housing will displace officers, who work with the borough’s most vulnerable, who will in turn effectively evict those very vulnerable people attending the day centre.
Surely, this is not Southwark Council’s plan? After years of council cuts – with councillors and officers struggling to balance the books, while trying to address escalating problems in housing and adult social care in particular – most local residents must have every sympathy with the predicament faced. So the answer is to be open about the options available, perhaps more open than they have ever been.
For the users and families of this day centre the ten-year stay of execution given to the Riverside Day Centre in Rotherhithe would be welcomed. The uncertainty is crippling. For them routine is everything. Not knowing what the plan is, and living under a 30-day eviction notice causes such heartache.
Users and families at Queen’s Road will need to look at what options they have together and individually. Clearly the council are not in the businesses of stripping resources from the most vulnerable, the opposite it is true. These users and their families, and the community, can join them in a larger struggle, explaining what immediate practical action can be taken – even if that is fundraising. And tell them the options. This week Cllr Richard Livingstone, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for adult care and financial inclusion, vowed that no final decisions could be taken about this “until after the council has consulted those affected”, saying it would happen shortly, and vowing that “whatever changes do happen in the future… service users’ needs will continue to be met.”
UNISON recently wrote to this paper arguing that if the council was building a new complex on Queen’s Road it should provide a new Day Centre at the same time. They said both of these developments would be commercial for profit opportunities, and sharing this profit with the community wouldn’t “sentence a valuable and vulnerable part of the community to imprisonment in their own homes.”
Could this happen? If it can then let’s work towards this together.