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Balfour Centre in Rochester given a lifeline

Campaigners have been fighting to save the Balfour Centre
Campaigners have been fighting to save the Balfour Centre

by Rebecca Hughes

A day centre threatened with closure has been temporarily saved.

The Balfour Centre on Pattens Lane, Rochester, was earmarked for closure by Medway Council as part of a package to save £2.1m in the adult social care budget.

The plans sparked outrage among users, staff and their families, who have held several protests and collected more than 7,000 signatures opposing the closure, which was announced in November last year.

But an 11 hour bid by Medway Community Healthcare (MCH), the independent local provider of NHS community health care, caused the eight week consultation to be extended in February to allow time for its proposal to be considered.

Today councillors agreed that Balfour’s services will be run by Medway Community Healthcare for six months and all staff will be seconded to the organisation.

If this is successful, council staff working at the Balfour will be transferred to Medway Community Healthcare.

Cllr David Brake, who is in charge of adult services, said: "Throughout the consultation that we held we said we wanted to hear the views of all, and this keenness to listen enabled this proposal from Medway Community Healthcare to come forward.

"Since then, we have wanted to make absolutely sure that what was proposed was right for the centre’s users, carers and staff.

"This meant that the engagement process has taken some time and I even decided not to present this at the May Cabinet meeting as I wanted to make sure it was absolutely right.

"I am pleased that Medway Community Healthcare will now be looking to develop a new centre with a new combined service. This is a very good result for all."

Oena Windibank, operations director for Medway Community Healthcare, added: "We are delighted that cabinet members have given us their support for our plans to continue to provide a mix of health and social care services for local people.

"We are looking forward to working together with the teams based at the Balfour Centre and people currently using the services to look at how we can develop what is available to make sure we meet local needs as more people begin to make greater use of their own personal care budgets."

"Medway Community Healthcare, one of the new health social enterprises, has a long history of providing high quality health services for Medway residents.

"As a social enterprise we are committed to developing services in partnership with local people and creating a community resource for local residents."

The centre offers day activities for adults with physical and learning disabilities.

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