We’ve covered the efforts made by users of the Solace Centre to keep it open in the face of closure in previous posts. There are various options now available and we hope the Council will agree to continue funding the centre whilst these options are explored in detail.
Ealing Council’s cabinet will consider proposals next Tuesday (24 March) to continue providing an out of hours drop-in service at the Solace Centre.
The Solace Centre is a drop-in support service for adults with mental health problems. It operates out of a council-owned building 365 days a year and is jointly funded by Ealing Council and the West London Mental Health Trust. In November, cabinet considered proposals to close the centre as part of a wide-ranging set of budget savings designed to help the council fill its £96million funding gap. Under these proposals, eligible customers would have been given their own personal budgets to buy alternative support services once the centre shut.
Cabinet gave its approval for the council to begin consulting users, staff and other people affected by the proposed closure. As part of this consultation process, the council asked voluntary sector groups to come forward with other ways to deliver the service, while still making the required savings for the council. There has been considerable interest from voluntary sector groups who have put forward a number of credible alternatives all of which now need further evaluation.
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.”
The report will be considered on Tuesday, 24 March by the council’s cabinet.