A series of ‘serious, unanswered safeguarding concerns’ have led to a council taking temporary possession of a community centre.
A statement released today by Adur District Council said it had been moved to act ‘decisively’, taking temporray possession of the Fishersgate Community Centre at 5am this morning.
The statement said: “Over the last six months, the council has been in discussions with the Fishersgate Community Association (FCA) over some fundamental issues relating to the safe and effective use of the Centre for Fishersgate community.
“These include safeguarding issues that the council has been made aware of – the Council has been trying to work with FCA to ensure they are fulfilling their safeguarding responsibilities and despite numerous attempts have not received satisfactory responses. This includes having a clear Safeguarding Policy to ensure that those running activities from the centre are safe and putting in place Disclosure and Barring Service checks for all centre trustees. The council takes its safeguarding responsibilities very seriously and needs to be confident these matters are addressed in buildings that it owns, including those run by charities and groups on the community’s behalf, and the general use of, and access to, the centre for all of the community of Fishersgate, especially in relation to an unacceptable instance of underage drinking.
“Unfortunately, the council has been unable to secure the necessary documentation and assurances from the FCA, including a failure to negotiate acceptable lease terms, prompting this action.”
Having now taken temporary possession, Adur District Council is to press ahead with an initial investment, of over £30,000, in the centre and Fishersgate Recreation Ground. Over the next four to five weeks, improvements will include removing temporary fencing, repairing the land and allotment behind the fence, making the building safe, installing new fire doors and opening up access to the forthcoming children’s play area.
The council hopes these improvements will kickstart a wider programme of investment in the Fishersgate Recreation Ground which will see new play equipment installed for the local community to enjoy. The work is likely to be completed by the summer.
The statement went on: “During these long-overdue works for the new play area, the council will retain temporary possession of the Centre. nce the works are complete, the significant issues are remedied and the appropriate lease signed (to the satisfaction of Adur District Council), the council will be in a position to return the running of the centre to the FCA, while retaining an overview and stronger monitoring role.”
Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin said: “When there are issues relating to the safety of young or vulnerable people, the council has an absolute obligation – legally and morally – to act. Over the past six months, we have tried to resolve our safeguarding concerns without having to resort to the more drastic measure of moving in, changing the locks and employing a security firm to guard the building. It is regrettable that we are now in this situation, but the council is committed to ensuring that the appropriate measures are in place to protect everyone using the centre.
“If every unfortunate situation has a silver lining, the positive outcome here will not only be better safeguarding procedures but a dramatically improved environment around the centre and across the whole Fishersgate Recreation Ground. We have been negotiating with the FCA to move the centre’s fence for over a year – now that we are able to do this, we’re also unlocking thousands of pounds of additional investment for a new children’s playground.
“By the time we are able to return the centre to the FCA, the whole area will have seen the benefits of the investment that we’re bringing to Fishersgate. In the meantime, our officers are working with the community groups who were using the Centre to find them alternative accommodation while the lease issues are resolved and the improvement works are completed.”
If any member of the community has further questions about the actions taken, then they can direct them to the council by email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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