£10m Havant school refurb forces out disabled group

Portsmouth City Council staff sickness rate up for debate

Members of a disabled craft club have been given their marching orders by a school.

The Havant and District Socially Independent Disabled group have been meeting at Havant Academy for the past 27 years.

But now that the 10m Building Schools for the Future refurbishment has been given the go-ahead the workshop the charity uses is being turned into a nursery from the end of February.

They have built up a workshop complete with kilns for ceramics, woodwork tools and equipment to make soft toys. It means the group must find a new venue quickly or face closure.

The charity's vice chairman, Doug McDermott, said: 'We were stunned when we were told to leave. How are we going to find a place in such a short space of time?

'Our members are vulnerable and have a range of disabilities and we perform a social role. Many members are lonely and would not have a chance to meet others in a safe environment if the club did not exist.

'We've put the feelers out for another workshop but if we can't find anywhere to go that will be it for the club.'

The 21 members of the group are picked up by the charity's own minibus each Wednesday. It is the only group of it's kind in Havant.

The charity is supported by a grant from Hampshire County Council and extra fundraising is done by selling the crafts that members make at the group.

Formerly Staunton Community Sports College, in Wakefords Way, West Leigh, the school was saved from closure in 2009 when it was given the chance to become an academy.

But it has to reduce its footprint by a third which means the charity can no long have exclusive use of any rooms.

It has not charged the group rent since September.

Headteacher Julie Taylor said: 'It's a really difficult situation and I can understand they're upset. The Academy has a huge part to play in the community and this was the last thing we wanted to do but pupils and our young children at the nursery have to come first.

'We are amazingly lucky to have the BSF funding in spite of all the budget cuts.

'We have done our best to work with HADSID. They have known this could be happening since the school became an Academy in September.'

If you can help HADSID out please contact Mr McDermott on (023) 9245 5361.

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