An under-threat day centre for adults with learning disabilities could be saved after the council performed a dramatic U-turn.
The Riverside day centre, in Bermondsey, and Queen’s Road day centre, in Peckham, both faced closure after the Camden Society was served notice on its leases by the council, who own the buildings.
The registered charity was given until June to leave the Queen’s Road building, and until November to leave Riverside.
The News can reveal that the council has now given the Camden Society an offer, which would secure its future at the Riverside centre for the next ten years.
The offer is being considered by the Camden Society and will be settled over coming weeks, the News understands. The details of the offer have not been made public.
It comes after a hard-fought campaign was launched by the borough’s Liberal Democrats, parents and carers of adults using the centres, and service users themselves.
Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, leader of Southwark Liberal Democrats, and Riverside ward councillor, said she was “delighted” that Riverside had been given the offer – but that the fight was not over for the Queen’s Road site.
“This has been a long, drawn-out battle for vulnerable adults who use the services at the Riverside day centre,” she said.
“The whole process leading up to this dramatic U-turn has been an absolute farce with a severe lack of communication between the Labour administration and the Camden Society.
“Even Labour admitted that communication could have been better. We are delighted that the Riverside day centre has been offered this reprieve, however the fight doesn’t end here.
“Southwark Liberal Democrats will continue to contest the decision to close another critical day centre at Queen’s Road and fight for a more open and transparent process to decision-making regarding the Riverside Day Centre.”
One hundred and sixty adults with learning disabilities and physical disabilities use the centres, which provide activities and vital social interaction for some service users who would otherwise sit at home alone each day.
Riverside was earmarked as a potential site for housing at a Sitematch bidders’ day in November last year – but Cllr Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for adult care and financial inclusion, told the News that it was no longer the case in an interview in March.
Cllr Livingstone also admitted that communication with service users and centre staff could have been better and timelier.
The future of the Queen’s Road centre still remains unclear. Last month, there was speculation that the site was being eyed up for offices.
A report produced in November stated the council’s intention to open new offices ‘Queen’s Road 4’, and there are no other known sites around Queen’s Road that the council owns.
Cllr Livingstone said: “I can confirm that the council offered the Camden Society a new long-term lease at Riverside, with favourable rental arrangements, at a meeting before Easter, and we await their decision.
“We are also arranging a visit to Riverside to look at any adaptations that may be required.
“We are keen to finalise arrangements as we know service users are feeling anxious and would like clarity about what services are on offer in Southwark to meet their needs.”
The News contacted the Camden Society for comment but did not receive a response by the time of going to press.