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Charity for disabled forced to shut down

PUBLISHED: 11:23 06 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:50 07 September 2010

AN international disability charity founded in Camden by Joan Bakewell and London deputy mayor Nicky Gavron has folded following the loss of government funding.

Katie Davies

AN international disability charity founded in Camden by Joan Bakewell and London deputy mayor Nicky Gavron has folded following the loss of government funding.

Artsline was a website formed 26 years ago by the TV presenter and the politician, among others, to inform disabled people about facilities which are accessible to them in London.

Based in Chalton Street, in Somers Town, it has become the first port of call for tens of thousands of people worldwide seeking to find out about facilities at public buildings such as disabled parking, wheelchair access and adapted lavatories.

But last Friday, the charity had to announce it was folding after applications for funding to the London Development Agency were denied.

Chief executive Alan Kerr said: "This is such a sad time for us and it has happened at a time when we are more successful than ever.

"At the moment, we are reaching out to more than 50,000 people a month and if we close down they will have to find someone else to do it.

"It is a difficult situation - the London Development Agency won't give money to an organisation which has financial difficulties, but the reason we have financial difficulties is because no one will support us. Camden Council won't give us funding because the work we do affects people outside Camden as well.

"There will be so many disappointed people. It is a major blow for disabled people the world over."

Camden councillor for Somers Town and St Pancras Roger Robinson, who is also chairman of the charity, said the closure was a trend occurring across the voluntary sector.

"I think the way we've been treated is absolutely disgraceful. We've had no money from anyone," he said.

"A lot of people just don't think disability is important. All sorts of people supported us at the beginning and we've been helping people for 26 years. All we needed was £40,000 to keep going."

Various celebrities have pledged support for the charity including Julian Clary and Dame Judi Dench.

A spokesman for the London Development Agency said: "Artsline lost their core funding from the Arts Council. We generally don't provide core funding for charities. We look to fund specific projects and we didn't think this would be effective use of our money."

katie.davies@hamhigh.co.uk


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