Disability centre to be closed by Westminster Council

DISABLED people in Westminster will be left “isolated and alone” if the council goes ahead with proposals to change the use of a Westbourne Park disability centre, its users warn.

The Westminster Centre for Independent Living, on Westbourne Park Road, supports deaf and disabled people to help promote their independence while also providing a social meeting place as a day centre.

But under changes outlined by Westminster Council the service is set to stop catering for people with physical disabilities and sensory needs, and change its focus to people with dementia.

Critics from a lobby group set up to campaign for the centre to stay open say the move will have a devastating effect on the people who have come to rely on its service.

Lobby group campaigner Maria Davis has used the centre for three years. She said: “It’s the only centre of its kind.

“If they close it people won’t have anywhere to go.

“They will be so depressed and their health will deteriorate because they won’t be able to meet their friends.

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“They will be isolated and alone.

“A lot of the people who go to the centre have been going there for a long time and have built up friendships. They can’t just suddenly stop going.”

The centre currently has 350 deaf and disabled people registered as service users, while 20 people are also registered for its day service.

It has been working towards its users being responsible for the day-to-day running of its services which include employment advice, art classes, hydrotherapy, counselling, reflexology and one-on-one support.

“Having a disability can be quite isolating so we all support each other,” said Ms Davis.

“There’s the social aspect as well as the various services they provide.

“It’s a unique place and there’s no alternative. There’s nowhere else for these people to go. It really is an amazing centre and has made a massive difference to me.”

Geraldine O’Halloran, the centre’s director, says the centre acts as a lifeline for its members who live alone.

“We are their first point of contact when they are worried or concerned and need support,” she said.

“The service gives people confidence and a sense of wellbeing. For them to lose this will lead to increased isolation, regression, illness and depression.

“We are a means to develop confidence using local resources and the loss of these resources will have an impact on people’s lives and wellbeing.”

Cllr Daniel Astaire says current levels of funding for social care services are unsustainable and the proposed move would save the council �600,000 over three years.

“We are going to have to make some tough and potentially uncomfortable decisions about how we are providing services in order to ensure we can continue to deliver first class services to those who need them most,” he said.

“Ultimately, this is about prioritising those who most need support and looking after our most vulnerable adults, while also looking to apply a consistent and fair approach to charging, which reflects people’s ability to pay.”

The changes are currently subject to a consultation period until December 8 with new arrangements to be in place from next April.