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Disabled protesters appeal to parliament

PUBLISHED: 17:18 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:57 23 August 2010

Gravesend
09-11-07
Mark Watson with his wife Nicky, concerned about the closure of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation in Dartford which his wife visits since becoming disabled after childbirth

Gravesend 09-11-07 Mark Watson with his wife Nicky, concerned about the closure of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation in Dartford which his wife visits since becoming disabled after childbirth

USERS of a specialist disabled centre who have campaigned to keep the service open are taking their protest to the Houses of Parliament in a last ditch attempt to save it. Members of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation Resource Centre, Brent Lane, Dartford, p

USERS of a specialist disabled centre who have campaigned to keep the service open are taking their protest to the Houses of Parliament in a last ditch attempt to save it.

Members of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation Resource Centre, Brent Lane, Dartford, plan to hand a 5,000-name petition to Parliament on Monday.

The centre's disabled users have been protesting to keep it open since plans for its closure were announced by Kent County Council (KCC) one year ago.

Nicky Watson, 39, of Thalia Court, Gravesend, uses the centre's arts and craft facilities and the gym.

Her husband Mark, 41, said: "KCC's argument is that it's moving forwards but they are ripping the heart out of the little community that has been built up at the centre.

"They don't care about these people. They are just doing what they want to do."

The centre offers specialist activity-based services including woodwork, arts and crafts and a fully-equipped gym in a specifically designed building staffed by specialist carers.

KCC bosses want to close the centre and have the disabled use mainstream facilities under a direct payment scheme. Despite this campaigners say they will not get the same quality of care if they have to use mainstream facilities.

Mr Watson said: "They are such lovely people down there. They have done wonders with Nicky. She's really come out of her shell and made a lot of friends. She has really come along but closing the centre is going to mean a backward step for her.

"People want the centre to stay but they have decided to use the direct payments scheme. It's all to do with profit."

Mr Watson also says that travelling distances between the mainstream services may also prove to be problematic.

He said: "Everything is under one roof. Nicky does a couple of things and at the centre it's possible to do that in one day. It will just be one activity at one centre in one day."

jason.goodyer@archant.co.uk

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