Norwood insists it is “not abandoning the Redbridge Jewish community” despite the closure of its Newbury Park centre, which offers activities and support for children and young people with disabilities.
Staff and parents of users were informed last week of Norwood’s intention to close the centre, on the site of the local Reform synagogue, on June 1.
But following a meeting with Redbridge Council representatives, a joint statement was issued on Tuesday, explaining that “despite the difficult financial climate, services delivered by Norwood from the Norwood centre will continue until September 1”.
At that point, “the council’s new short breaks services will commence, replacing those services the council commissions from Norwood, and all Norwood services at the Norwood centre will cease”.
Elaine Kerr, the charity’s chief executive, described the extension as a “win, win for the families, the council and Norwood”.
Users would continue to receive services over the summer holiday period and Norwood would have additional time to assess the future needs of Redbridge Jewry.
The charity is budgeting for a £1.1 million deficit this year. The Redbridge centre costs Norwood more than £200,000 annually to operate beyond the council’s contribution. A significant percentage of the centre’s 90 users are non-Jewish.
“We are concerned about the parents and kids, Jewish and non-Jewish,” Ms Kerr stressed.
“Over the next few months we will talk individually to families.
“We are not abandoning the Redbridge Jewish community. But we have to be sensible about how we use our voluntary funds. We have to go where the need is greatest.”
Ms Kerr pointed out that Norwood’s North-East London social work team had moved recently to the Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary premises. The charity’s supported living projects in the area were unaffected and efforts would be made to redeploy the centre’s staff.
Speaking on Wednesday, Joe Barnard, a part-time casual worker at the centre, expressed relief at the commitments made by the council and Norwood.
“I am pleased the kids will be getting a service over the summer holidays, our busiest period. But I am quite annoyed about the lack of communication from Norwood [over the latest developments].”
He hoped for clarity from the council on whether services under the new arrangement would be on a like-for-like basis.
“You would not want to lose the relationship between the kids, and with staff members.”