A SUPPORT service for adults with learning disabilities will be based at an arts centre – despite a long-running campaign to reopen its former home.
The decision to establish a base for the My Day, My Life support service at the Melville Centre for the Arts in Abergavenny was welcomed by an Abergavenny councillor who sits on Monmouthshire County Council’s ruling cabinet, but was described as “disappointing” by the Conservative opposition leader.
Cllr Ian Chandler, the cabinet member for social care, said the decision had been taken in line with what the 11 service users in the Abergavenny area had said they had wanted from a base, where they will be able to drop in and see friends “without feeling as if they have to ask permission”, take part in activities, and also access other activities and events in the wider community.
The cabinet had taken a decision, without consultation, at the end of November last year to permanently close the Tudor Centre in Abergavenny, which hadn’t reopened since closing at the start of Covid pandemic. That kickstarted a campaign to reopen the centre while the social services department described day centres as “outdated”.
However a review into the My Day, My Life service, which had already started, found that service users did want a base and recommended establishing two, in Abergavenny and Monmouth.
Though campaigners stepped up calls for the Tudor Centre to reopen, it was placed on a shortlist with two other buildings in Abergavenny with a recommendation to choose the Melville made in October.
However at that point the Labour-led cabinet was asked to defer any decision while talks with campaigners, who want to develop a wider support service for vulnerable adults, continued.
At the cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday, November 15, it was agreed the service should be based at the Melville and the council will provide support to groups interested in developing community-based support for a wider range of people.
As a result it was also agreed no decision on the Tudor Street building will be taken until the end of this financial year to give groups time to come forward with proposals to take it on.
Cllr Richard John, leader of the opposition Conservative group, told Cllr Chandler: “I do think this is a disappointing report and I struggle to see how the case stacks up not to proceed with reopening Tudor Street. The recommendations are almost identical to the report you partially presented, and deferred, on October 11. I think you’ve given false hope to residents.”
He asked how service users should feel “reassured” by the consultations since the pause in October, but Cllr Chandler said the support to the community groups and the council’s position on the future of the Tudor Centre were now clearer.
Leader of the Independent Group, Frances Taylor, asked why the option of using the Tudor Centre and transferring it to a community group hadn’t been explored, with the Melville requiring a “significant” investment of £135,355 to make it fully accessible.
Green Party member Cllr Chandler said “all options” had been explored and said, while the consultation had been “valuable”, it had “taken time and service users were keen for a decision to be made quickly.”
Cllr Chandler also revealed the council is working with the directors of the Melville to make an application to the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund to make the building accessible, which will include resurfacing its car park, new doors and toilet facility. It was said that application would have been made regardless of which building was selected as the My Day, My Life base.
Council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby said the decision would provide Abergavenny with a fully accessible arts centre and the decision was welcomed by Labour cabinet member Martyn Groucutt.
He said: “As an Abergavenny councillor I’m delighted with this proposal and, as an enthusiastic supporter of the Melville, I think My Day, My Life will add a new dimension to an already exciting centre.”
The cabinet also agreed to a review of community-based support for people with learning disabilities in Monmouthshire, which will start with a roundtable meeting for groups.
It has already been agreed to establish a base at the Overmonnow Family Learning Centre in Monmouth and the Wellbeing Centre, at the former Tourist Information Centre, near Abergavenny bus station will be used as a temporary base with the space also made available to the community groups working to develop a wider support service.