Published: 7 September, 2012
by JOSH LOEB
USERS of a now defunct respite care centre are furious that the building which housed the state-of-the-art facility has been lying empty for a year.
The Centre for Independent Living in Westbourne Park Road, Paddington, was used by hundreds of people with physical and sensory disabilities until Westminster Council closed it last summer pending conversion for use by dementia patients.
Its former users remain dismayed that its facilities, including Westminster’s only hydrotherapy pool, are off limits to them even as the country celebrates the climax of the Paralympic Games.
Maria Davis, whose health condition has left her with mobility problems and who led the SOS Westminster campaign to try to save it, said such resources could have aided Paralympians of the future.
Ms Davis said: “What are we saying, that we will celebrate what disabled people can achieve but we won’t help you get to that point, you’ll have to do it on your own and fund it yourself?”
Fiona Gallivan, who suffers from mixed connective tissue disease, said she missed socialising at the centre’s garden, which had sculptures representing wellbeing and which was opened in 1996 under the name Princess Diana Resource Centre.
She said: “We saw with the Atos protests that people feel they are being punished for being disabled. I think because of the Paralympics being a celebratory event they should make the effort to open places like this up again.”
Di Yeo, whose daughter is one of the many people who were helped by the centre’s hydrotherapists, said it was a “tragedy” the users had been ousted.
Mrs Yeo, a prominent charity worker who is married to Conservative MP Tim Yeo, said: “I’m sure it’s right that dementia and learning disabilities should be a priority for governments and local authorities, but I feel that people with physical disabilities are being forgotten about.”
The council this week released details of how its “£300,000” dementia centre will look in November and said the hydrotherapy pool would be reopened as soon as possible.
When it closed the centre City Hall allocated the ousted users “personal budgets” cash to buy their own services.
As well as providing dedicated daycare facilities for existing dementia patients the council says its new centre will give specific support to patients diagnosed more recently. More than 230 older people were newly diagnosed with dementia in Westminster last year.
Cllr Rachael Robathan, cabinet member for adult services and health at Westminster Council said: “Dementia is widely acknowledged to be one of the most pressing problems currently facing the UK with the number of people diagnosed with the disease standing at more than 800,000.
“As the needs of older people change and grow, local authorities need to play an active role in finding innovative ways to tackle the condition and deliver appropriate care.”