Service users are again being consulted on the proposed closure of an adult day centre, after raising concerns over not having enough information or time to comment.
Queen’s Road day centre faces closure after the council decided against renewing the lease on the building and to turn it into offices for its own use instead.
The centre caters for adults with physical and learning disabilities and is run by charitable company the Camden Society, along with Riverside day centre in Bermondsey.
A consultation was launched with service users and their families and carers in June over proposed plans to close the Queen’s Road centre and create a ‘disability hub’ at Southwark Resource Centre instead.
But because service users raised concerns over lack of information and not having sufficient time to object to the closure, the council is now consulting again until October 17.
The council proposes to close Queen’s Road and create a new model offering two types of service at a disabilities hub. Riverside day centre has had its lease extended and will continue to run as normal.
“The first is a free service where people with a disability, their families and carers can obtain information and advice, short-term support or be signposted to other services that are available to support them,” the consultation states.
“The second part of the hub would provide structured day support and activities similar to those provided at Queen’s Road for people with more complex disabilities and who have been assessed to need this type of support.
“The council has developed a two-centre accommodation strategy based at Tooley Street and Queen’s Road. Staff and services that used to be based in buildings throughout the borough are now based in one of these two locations.
“The reason the council wants to include the day centre site in its Queen’s Road campus is because it is not possible to relocate the remaining services within the current capacity of the Queen’s Road development.”
The alternatives proposed for the future of Queen’s Road day centre in the consultation were to “maintain the status quo” or “adopt one of the other accommodation options”.
Sinem Quashie, co-chair of Camden Society Parents’ and Carers’ Group, said the consultation gave people a “great opportunity to voice their opinions” but that there wasn’t an easy read version for service users.
“Southwark offered a 20-year lease to the Camden Society for its Riverside centre – however it does not take responsibility for the building, its repairs or external maintenance nor the adaptations needed to accommodate the physically disabled from Queen’s Road,” she added.
“Even the most basic landlord responsibilities including fire safety standards are being ignored.
“The parents and carers put forward a proposal to Southwark to have its centre located underneath the new offices at Queen’s Road. We are still waiting a response from them.”
Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, leader of Southwark Liberal Democrat council group, said the document “suggests that it’s a done deal” and the council “don’t seem to be giving any options”.
“Liberal Democrat councillors are clear that Queen’s Road must stay open, following the successful campaign for the Riverside centre earlier this year,” she added.
Cllr Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for adult care and financial inclusion, said the council was consulting with service users to “consider their views before a decision is made”.
“The proposal that is now out to consultation would offer adults with learning disabilities good alternatives, both by enhancing our services at the multi-million-pound purpose-built Southwark Resource Centre and by supporting the Camden Society to continue to provide day services from the Riverside site where we have given them the security of a 20-year lease.
“We know that change is unsettling but we are confident that the people who use the day centre would continue to receive good services.
“Once the consultation closes we will carefully consider all the responses from service users and their families. We will then be in a better position to answer specific questions about next steps.”
The council said it had been working with the Camden Society to help the charity establish itself at Riverside.
‘The closure would have a huge strain on me’
Julie James, who has one son attending Queen’s Road day centre and another who goes to Riverside, said the closure of the centre would have a “huge strain” on her.
“My son Shane, who is 26, has autism and severe learning difficulties and Kevin, who is 39, has more or less the same but is also physically disabled and has sight problems,” said the 59-year-old, from Camberwell.
“I’m a lone parent bringing them up and they’ve had these problems since birth
“Kevin goes to Queen’s Road four days a week and Bede one day a week and it just gives me a break; I can tidy the house and do a bit of shopping while knowing they are safe.
“Because of his autism, the change will confuse and upset Kevin.”
‘It’s not good enough’
George Witsey, 82, and his wife are carers for their 62-year-old son Steven, who has brain damage.
“He was at school and was a very bright boy and started to complain of stomach pains,” Mr Witsey explained.
“Our doctor sent him to hospital and they told us he had a bowel blockage.
“They operated but he didn’t have one – he had a burst appendix.”
Mr Witsey, who lives in Rotherhithe, said his son was in a coma for seven months and left brain damaged.
“We have to do everything for Steven and you’ve got to be behind him at all times,” he said.
“He comes here five days a week,” he said. “Why can’t they build a centre for us – then it would be done and dusted. It’s not acceptable, it’s no good for Steven.”