Disability group demands to be listened to as future of Merton High Path Community Centre uncertain

A Merton community centre used by people with disabilities has yet to be given a new home, despite the council’s promise to relocate it last month.

The centre in High Path benefits more than 80 people with learning difficulties and their families.

Merton Council’s Simon Williams, director of communities and housing, wrote to centre users back in August to inform them the centre would be moved, but did not say where to.

Lyla Adwan-Kamara, CEO of Merton Centre for Independent Living, an organisation for disabled people run by disabled people, is demanding the council engages with users of the centre after the announcement came ‘out of the blue’.

She said: “The decision to relocate High Path Community Centre is another step in a deeply worrying trend by Merton Council of making decisions to the detriment of disabled people, and of making decisions over the heads of disabled people and frankly poor involvement of disabled people in decision-making relating to issues that affect our lives.

“The approach, as here, of making decisions and then asking for our views afterwards is a pattern, and not an isolated one-off.”

She believed the land was being sold to Harris Academy.

Merton Council deputy leader Mark Allison said: “So many young families want to live in Merton and there is a need for a new secondary school in Wimbledon.

“The government has agreed that Harris can open a school in the south Wimbledon area, but as we are still in commercially sensitive negotiations with private land owners to purchase the land, parents would be angry if we put the school at risk by undermining these commercially sensitive negotiations with careless talk.”

Merton Adult Education Centre in Whatley Avenue, Raynes Park, closed down earlier this year, resulting in disabled people being segregated from non-disabled people and scattered across three different sites in Merton – including High Path Community Centre.

Ms Adwan-Kamara claimed over the past three years Merton Council, which has declined the option of raising council tax by more than 2% specifically for adult social care, had repeatedly ignored the voices of disabled people in relation to budget cuts and centre closures.

She added: “We want real involvement of users and their families in the decision making process.

“We want to see actions now from Merton Council to prove you are listening and acting on what disabled people say, not just paying lip-service to so-called consultations.

“We would like to see the rhetoric turned into reality.”

A Healthwatch Merton report showed disabled and older people felt their well-being and physical health would be damaged by cuts to services.


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