CHARITY CLOSURE: Norman Laud Association closes despite financial offer
Families are “shocked” at the closure of a charity which provides respite care for children and adults with special needs despite a council funding offer.
More than 11,000 people signed a petition calling for Birmingham City Council to increase funding to the Norman Laud Association after it announced it would be closing in December.
The charity was set up 60 years ago and ran two sites in Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield, providing overnight and day care services to young people and adults with profound learning and/or physical disabilities.
Families were dismayed to hear in the autumn that the charity would be closing after failing to raise the £250,000 it needs per year on top of council funding to remain open.
The city council made a financial offer to the charity in order to keep it going but was turned down – and the charity press ed ahead with plans to close.
Following the presentation of the petition, the council’s health and social care overview and scrutiny committee joined calls for the Charities Commission to look into the circumstances surrounding the closure.
Cabinet member for health and social care Cllr Paulette Hamilton said at the scrutiny meeting yesterday (Feb 16) money from the council was set aside to “do what it takes” to keep the charity open, but the charity said “they could not accept it and carried on with the closure”.
Cllr Alex Yip (Con), ward member for Sutton Wylde Green ward and shadow cabinet member for children’s wellbeing, who presented the petition, said during the meeting parents have now been offered alternative respite care as far away as Evesham, Worcs.
Janet Tindall, 60, full-time carer for her son Luke, 31, from Acocks Green, said after the meeting: “My son used to go for respite and would still be going.
“It was a wonderful service. He used to go in for a week, two weeks or a long weekend. It gave me a bit of a break to get on with normal life.
“They used to help a great deal. He had his own social life while he was there, with people his own age. He needs his space as much as we need ours.
“We are both gutted. If we had been told six or 12 months ago, we could have done fundraising.
“It was a bit of a shock when we got the phone call in the early part of November to say it was closing in December. My first reaction was ‘what?’ and I just broke into tears.”
Vicky Stiles, university lecturer and granddaughter of Norman and Mary Laud said: “The closure of the NLA leaves the respite care users and their families who have attended the charity over many years, in a desperate situation, with the only option to seek respite care in care homes for the elderly.
“This is in heart-breaking contrast to the personalised, high-quality care they thrive on at the NLA – the visionary care that was set out by founder Norman Laud over six decades ago.
“Sadly, we think there is nothing we can do to stop the closure now. We think the NLA and the good work done has gone.”
Cllr Yip (Con), ward member for Sutton Wylde Green ward and shadow cabinet member for children’s wellbeing, said: “I […] thank and applaud Birmingham City Council who have endeavoured to work with Norman Laud Association within the timelines they have imposed for closure and we are all disappointed that what many feel was a fair and reasonable offer of support has been rejected.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “Following a mini open book exercise, we offered to increase the rates the council pays for the care packages provided by Norman Laud at fair market rates to bring them in line with other providers.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands a complaint has been made to the Charity Commission around the closure of the charity.
A Charity Commission spokesperson: “We have opened a regulatory compliance case to examine concerns relating to this matter. We cannot comment further at this stage.”
Words: Mark Cardwell, Local Democracy Reporter
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