Decision to be made on future of learning disability services in Hastings and Rother

Conquest Centre, Chichester Road, St Leonards. SUS-160806-133648001
Conquest Centre, Chichester Road, St Leonards. SUS-160806-133648001
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A decision on the future of a day centre will be made tomorrow (Thursday, June 9) by county council bosses.

East Sussex County Council is considering a number of changes to services for adults with disabilities and one proposal is to merge the Conquest Centre in Chichester Road, St Leonards, with Beeching Park in Bexhill.

The Conquest Centre building would also no longer be used for learning disability services and could be sold off.

County council bosses said Beeching Park would become the main day service in Hastings and Rother and Working Wonders, which is next to the Conquest Centre, would focus on providing opportunities for skills development to help people gain voluntary or paid employment.

The county council launched a consultation into the proposals earlier this year. The consultation ended in March.

But many groups who use the Conquest Centre have expressed concern about having to relocate six miles away, including T S Fortitude, a nautical training club for people with learning difficulties.

County councillor Phil Scott, who represents Hollington & Wishing Tree ward, is also angry at the proposals.

He said: “Adults with learning disabilities who attend the Conquest Centre will be forced to travel to Bexhill.

“The people using the centre have known each other for many years so friendship groups that have formed will be destroyed potentially.

“At a time when central government continues with its callous austerity measures it is the weak and vulnerable who are bearing the brunt of these savage cuts being imposed by East Sussex County Council.

“For Hastings where these services are much-needed it defies belief you would continue to take services out, rather than continue to invest in both infrastructure and people.”

In a report, Keith Hinkley, the county council’s director of adult social care and health, said: “The Conquest Centre building has served day services well but is now out of step with current provision.

“A feasibility study has been undertaken to consider changes to the building layout but it is evident that refurbishment would be cost prohibitive.

”Beeching Park is not operating to full capacity in terms of building space. A number of rooms are not used and could be opened up to provide more choice on the day service programme to a greater number of clients.

“Moreover, Working Wonders provides a bright and modern space that, with minor adaptation, could be used more effectively. Similarly, Greenwood in Bexhill, that was refurbished last year, could offer a base for a small day service programme as it is not fully utilised during weekdays.

”By rationalising the use of buildings, £200,000 revenue savings per annum could be released. A capital receipt of around £200,000 to £260,000 is anticipated if the Conquest Centre building is sold.”

“A sharper focus on skills development would lead to greater support to help people to move on from a day service environment.

“The proposals will deliver significant revenue savings to the council, as well as releasing from use a large building that may be used for an alternative purpose or sold to achieve a capital receipt.”

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