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Support groups left homeless after community hub review




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PROFOUNDLY deaf members of a local support group are on the look out for a new meeting place after their weekly get togethers at their current location came to an end on Friday.

For the last three years Stratford Deaf Group have enjoyed free meetings at Stratford Sports Club situated at Stratford Cricket Club off Swan’s Nest Lane. Last Friday the group of eight met as usual only to receive the sad news that they won’t be able to hold their meetings at the site anymore.

Until recently the community hub was run by a charity called Bromford who successfully bid for the tender put out by Warwickshire County Council. However, as of 1st July the hub will be run by care provider Turning Point, representatives of which, informed the deaf group on a flip chart that no more meetings could take place because being deaf is not a “learning disability.”

Communicating with the Herald via email, Stratford Deaf Group member, Ruth Goode, wrote: “Turning Point staff just turned up at our group last Friday and just said there will be no more group for us just because we don't have learning disabilities there was no warning or letter at all. We meet regularly on Fridays mornings. We didn't pay any fee to the Hub. We are all profoundly deaf and only use sign language to communicate, also we rely on British sign language interpreters. The Hub is a good place, clean, has disabled access with parking spaces. It has a private room for us to socialise and hold meetings with Warwickshire Police and our local MP.”

Fellow member Philip O’Dell said everyone felt “very down” about the news but added the group would continue to meet – probably in a café – until they can find somewhere new. The group have now appealed to anyone with a suitable venue, which is free on Friday mornings, to get in contact with them.

Originally, the group used to meet at Tesco café and it was at one of these meetings, three years ago, that the offer of re-locating to the Hub at the sports club was made.

Ruth says that it’s not just their group that’s affected. She’s had contact with Mencap Pathway and with David Simms who holds a music group for disabled people.

This week Di Yeoman, marketing and media Officer said: “Yes, this has affected two of our Mencap Pathway Day Activities - drama and karaoke. We are now investing time in finding suitable alternatives, so that we can continue to hold these popular sessions for our customers. Whilst we are disappointed that we can longer use The Hub, our Pathway activities continue across various sites in Stratford, Warwick, and Studley. We are continually reviewing our venues, and looking for appropriate spaces and are confident that we will find another home for these sessions very soon.”

Gemma Clark from Turning Point Warwickshire said:

‘Turning Point has worked in Warwickshire for over fifteen years, supporting people with learning disabilities to lead full and rewarding lives. We were recently awarded the contract for the wellbeing service in South Warwickshire, to support people with learning disabilities to improve their health and wellbeing.

‘The existing service was based out of a number of buildings across the South. Over the last few months we have worked with staff, partners and most importantly people with learning disabilities to find out what they want from the service going forward, which includes greater access to community groups, venues, services and activities. This means that from the 1st July, while some activities will still be building-based, others will be run from existing community settings, such as the library, cafes and health centres. We are also developing innovative partnerships with other community groups to ensure people with a learning disability are supported to access the full range of activities on offer in the town.

‘Previously the service had operated from the sports club throughout the week, however based on the feedback from the people we will be supporting, the service will now only be based from this property on a Monday and Tuesday.

‘Under an informal agreement with the previous provider who rented the sports club, several groups were able to use the space for their meetings. As the new service no longer requires this space, the previous agreement is no longer viable. Unfortunately this means that some groups have had to find alternative meeting space.

“We understand this has been disruptive and are trying to minimise any inconvenience caused by supporting groups to find alternative space locally. We have given as much notice as possible to the group meeting at the club on a Friday, and found an alternative space which cost just over £6 an hour. We also spoke to the sports club to see if they could continue to accommodate the group, however the club has already made alternative plans for that day.”

Stratford Deaf Group say they are grateful to Bromford Hub, Stratford Sports Club and Stratford Cricket Club for their support during the past three years.



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