Scaled Down Plans For Solace Centre

Will remain open but specialist unit to be merged

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A mental health centre in West Ealing under threat of closure will stay open but in a scaled down site.

The Solace Centre on Bowman's Close offers a support service for adults with mental health problems and in November, cabinet considered proposals to shut it as part of budget savings. The plans were widely 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.

Now Ealing Council say they plan to merge Solace with Marron House next door which is currently leased to London Cyrenians providing supported housing for residents with serious mental health issues. The larger space of the Solace Centre will be turned into two extra housing units for vulnerable young people.

Service user Marina Attorre is disappointed:

'' What is being offered at Marron House is one room ( smaller than the main lounge area) and a small kitchen. There is no office and private seating area to have private conversations which is something that is needed for service users so they can  discuss delicate matters with staff or other service users.

''Having obviously been delighted with the council's decision to keep the service that Solace centre provides open I can't help but feel short changed in what they are recommending and there's seems to be no transparency to what they are wanting to do.

''The Solace centre is not just about sitting down drinking tea. It is so much more and I strongly feel that if it is moved into Marron House and service users are confined to one room many important aspects that the Solace centre provides will be lost and feel that is wrong.''

The council say many of the residents at Marron House are also members of the Solace Centre and the move will allow a linked service with the potential to share staff and facilities. If the plans go ahead, the new drop-in service will start operating next April.

Councillor Hitesh Tailor, cabinet member for health and adults services, said:

''I am pleased that we have found a workable solution that allows the service to stay open while making these essential savings. It shows the benefits of working creatively and collaboratively with local organisations.

''Keeping the service at Marron House makes logistical sense and is what members of the Solace Centre told us they wanted. There is a significant crossover in people who use both services and having them in the same building will be more efficient and effective.

“This proposal also allows for the creation of two extra housing units, saving money on expensive out of borough placements and providing more close-to-home housing for vulnerable residents. This all contributes towards the £96m in savings that we have to find.”

Lib Dem Councillor Gary Malcolm said:

''The council should consult users on the plans before they make decisions. By forcing them to have a much smaller space it means they are not going to be able to provide the excellent service they do. It means that the relatively small saving, of the whole Council budget, will be dwarfed by additional costs on other health establishments like doctors and hospitals. Mental health should be a priority."

The decision was taken by Ealing Council’s cabinet on Tuesday, 16 June. All cabinet decisions are subject to a call-in period of five working days from the date of publication of the minutes of the meeting.

The council will now begin discussions with users of the Solace Centre and Marron House residents so that the new service can be designed to meet their needs.

17th June 2015