Second Chance For Solace Centre?
Council urged to continue funding until long-term arrangements sorted
A mental health drop-in centre in West Ealing threatened with closure, may be given a second chance.
The Solace Centre offers a support service for adults with mental health problems. It operates out of a council-owned building in Bowman's Close all year and is jointly funded by Ealing Council and the West London Mental Health Trust.
In November, cabinet considered proposals to shut Solace as part of budget savings. The plans were condemned and a campaign to save the centre began with Comedian Jo Brand - a former psychiatric nurse - amongst more than 1,600 people who signed a petition.
The centre has operated for 16 years and been described as an invaluable lifeline for its many users.
After it was revealed that a man who died after being hit by a train at Ealing Broadway Station had been a client at Solace, closure plans were put on hold and alternative ways to continue the service were looked into.
The council asked voluntary sector groups to come forward and now say there has been considerable interest.
Proposals include an external group running the drop-in service from the Solace Centre building; using the Solace Centre building more efficiently; and finding another space for the Solace Centre to use so the existing Solace Centre space can be transformed into flats for people with mental health problems.
Cabinet will decide on Tuesday whether to agree to continue funding the Solace Centre while these alternatives are given careful consideration, and further options are explored. A further cabinet paper is expected in June.
Councillor Hitesh Tailor, cabinet member for health and adults services, said: “I will be making the case very strongly at cabinet for the council to continue funding the Solace Centre in the short-term, while we secure the long-term future of the service in Ealing.
“Solace Centre users have put forward some strong arguments for why a drop-in service should continue and I’m pleased that so many local voluntary groups have come forward with their ideas on how we can make this happen together. The council is in a very tough financial situation and is having to make some very difficult decisions, and this consultation process goes to show that, by working with service users and local groups, creative solutions can be put in place that allow services to continue while still making the necessary savings.”
Cllr Mark Reen, Shadow Member for Health and Adults Services said:
''Given that the Labour Cabinet Member originally supported the idea of closing the Centre, how much pressure does he plan to put on his colleagues?
''The users and the families are been instrumental in running an effective campaign against the closure of the Centre. A fight that needed have taken place in the first instance if the Labour Council was looking out for residents instead of themselves. Taking a pay increase instead of funding valuable services for residents. Clearly Labour missed the memo that it should be service above self!''
The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Ealing Central and Acton, Councillor Jon Ball, said:
'' I have been supporting Solace Centre users in their fight to retain the much-needed centre since the Labour administration first threatened Solace with closure. I called on Cllr Tailor in the Council Chamber to "do the decent thing and save Solace!" I am delighted that the campaign is now bearing fruit and Cllr Tailor is moving in the right direction.
"The Cabinet papers show that a further paper will be going to Cabinet in June, so there is a risk that Labour are just trying to delay closure until after the general election is out of the way. However, I welcome their commitment that an out of hours service for all Solace users will continue and I sincerely hope that they will come forward soon with an announcement securing the long-term future of the Solace Centre itself and freeing service users from the worry caused by the ongoing closure threat."
The report will be considered on Tuesday, 24 March by the council’s cabinet.
18th March 2015