Closing centre is unnecessary

After months of uncertainty, this week came the devastating news that East Sussex County Council is to dispose of the purpose-built Conquest Centre for young adults with learning difficulties.

The centre has, up until now, provided learning disability day services and a home to the most successfully run Gateway Club, which meets on Thursday evenings each week.

A so-called consultation process took place but those of us involved with the Gateway Club had to fight via our MP and local councillors to have a meeting with ESCC’s Head of Service for Learning Disability Services.

We were not told what the recommendations were likely to be but many present had heard that closure of the Conquest Centre was ‘a done deal’.

As if all this wasn’t insulting enough, it turns out that the final decision to close is made by just one person who delights in the title of Lead Member for Adult Social Care and Community Safety.

How can this, by any interpretation, be considered democratic?

What we have here is a sham consultation process where the end result has been decided well in advance of any user comments being submitted or considered.

To rub salt in to the wound, The Gateway Club, which has more than 100 members, celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year though any celebration will naturally be somewhat subdued for the reasons outlined above.

Gateway will survive with some disruption and upheaval but all this is so unnecessary.

These county officers would do well to remember when dealing with any disadvantaged group that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

Richard Stevens

President of Hastings Gateway Club

All Saints Street

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