Kisharon centres could shut in service revamp

By Jessica Elgot, February 9, 2012

Learning disability charity Kisharon could close day centres in Hackney and Golders Green to facilitate users' greater integration within the mainstream community.

Kisharon chief executive Bev Jacobson said the charity had been given around a year by Hackney Council to examine ways the services offered by the Stamford Hill day centres could be provided by alternative means.

Councils in north and north-west London are also looking to change the way they provide backing by giving funding directly to service users, who can then choose how they pay for their care and support.

Ms Jacobson pointed out that more integrated activities would still require staff, so redundancies were unlikely.

Closing all the premises was not cut and dried. "We might have shared facilities, or run separate sessions for men and women in the same building in Stamford Hill. At the moment we have separate centres.

"There is a country-wide initiative to make sure people with learning disabilities participate in mainstream life - for example, go swimming at local pools. But the Charedi community in Stamford Hill can't do that if there are not segregated sessions, so we are trying to think creatively about how we tackle that."

Traditional day centres were also unsuitable for many learning disabled young adults.

"In Stamford Hill, there are a clear lack of transition opportunities for young people leaving school and entering an adult care setting."

Ms Jacobson added that "many of the religious men with learning disabilities want to participate in Jewish learning, so we may offer them space in yeshivah, with a teacher provided by Kisharon".

The Hackney day centres currently attract 30 adult visitors daily, all of whom live with family. Ms Jacobson said that although she understood the concern of parents and carers about potential closures, she supported the ideology of "changing lives" by getting learning disabled adults into mainstream activities and part-time employment.

Last updated: 1:18pm, February 9 2012