Decision on mental health and disability services must be delayed
13 April 2012
Next week Camden's Cabinet will decide the future of two dementia centres, two centres for people with learning disabilities - New Shoots and the Camden Centre, and Highgate Mental Health Centre. They want to in effect close them down and build a new site for all these groups of users, Green councillor Maya de Souza explains.
Though there is good news for Netherwood dementia centre, expected to be retained, the New Shoots Centre faces closure, and Highgate will lose its existing building and move to a new one - design and size not yet known, as will Raglan and the Camden Centre.
Cllr de Souza said: "It looks as if this is in part driven by a wish to raise capital and to save maintenance costs. This is no bad thing in itself, but there is a big issue about raising money from services for vulnerable people for upgrading housing and school buildings, especially when Camden has such a poor record for cost-effective construction.
"There are also possible savings by sharing facilities, but this was always opposed by users and now as separate buildings are to be constructed it's hard to see how this would happen. The other benefit is a Centre for Independent Living, but it's not obvious why building this requires such wider reconfiguration of services."
Cllr de Souza added: "There are many failings in the consideration leading up to this final proposal. Almost no weight has been given to the loss of community which has been successfully developed in places such as New Shoots. These small, human-scale centres where people have a sense of ownership and belonging should not be undervalued.
"Moreover putting all these vulnerable groups on one site reinforces the message that these people are different from others and can be thrown together. And by reducing the amount of space we reduce the potential to expand our services which is so important especially with an ageing population.
"There are also many unanswered questions. It's not clear whether the joint site will be able to offer services to similar numbers of people. New Shoots were told they would able to put in a bid to run their building, but weren't given the information needed to do so, and had their bid is now not even being put to the Cabinet.
"Why weren't they given a better chance to put forward their proposal? Many excuses have been given for closing their building, saying it does not have disability access and costs a lot to repair. This does not ring true.
"Also, the Highgate Centre with its excellent facilities, was done up in recent years at a cost of over £100,000. We do not know what space it will have after this redevelopment.
We accept that some change may be needed. But this should not be at the expense of the most vulnerable. We also need open and honest dialogue and discussion, which we haven't had.
Cllr de Souza concluded: "The decision should be delayed so that all these questions can be answered and other options considered."