A Kingston mental health charity is urgently seeking new premises after being evicted from their current offices by Kingston Council.
The council told the Fircroft Trust in July that they would not be allowed access to their Mental Health Resource Centre on Ditton Road, due to the discovery of structural problems deeming the building unsafe.
However, according to a statement by the charity, the Fircroft Trust were neither consulted, nor given any warning before being forced to leave, despite having leased the building from the council for over 40 years.
CEO of The Fircroft Trust Kay Harris said: “We have been told by Kingston Council we cannot use the Fircroft building any longer and we have to find an alternative site.
“No notice or time to do this was given. We are all devastated.”
Harris also explained that the trust had been aware for some time that there was a structural problem with the property.
She claimed that the trust had offered to contribute towards building renovations in July last year, to ensure that the resource centre could open post-lockdown.
Whilst Kingston Council did not address Harris’ claims, it did express its regret that the eviction was necessary, as well their support for the charity’s work.
It said: “We want The Fircroft Trust to continue to thrive and are actively working with them to find them alternative accommodation for their immediate needs which they feel is suitable.
“We really value the work the Fircroft Trust does in our community. The mental health crisis which COVID-19 has caused means their work is needed more than ever.”
The Fircroft Trust specialises in supporting adults with mental health challenges and/or learning difficulties, and is currently the only organisation in Kingston that provides centre-based support for people with mental health and wellbeing problems.
Although they offer their residential and supported services at a separate site, the Mental Health Resource Centre on Ditton Road has been a “haven” for over 75 people with mental health difficulties in the community.
It has provided essential services including informal counselling sessions, craft groups, mindfulness, and yoga classes, art/music therapy, and more.
The Fircroft Trust has also continued to support those who have needed its help throughout the pandemic, offering remote and socially distance services.
Kingston Council has evicted the mental health charity at a time of poor mental wellbeing in the community.
There has been a mental health decline amongst Kingston NHS staff and, according to the charity, demands for its services have increased across the community during the pandemic.
This picture is reflected across the UK as the number of people experiencing depression has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic.
According to ONS data, nearly one in five adults reported experiencing symptoms of depression in June 2020, compared to one in ten in March 2020.
Harris said: “At a time when there is a national crisis in mental health, withdrawing this essential support system has been devastating for the local community.”
The Fircroft Trust are appealing to those in their local community to help them secure new premises in the Chessington, Surbiton or Tolworth area.
The space needs to be suitable for them to resume their face-to-face support services.
If you know of any available buildings or are able to assist in any way, please contact the Fircroft Trust.