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A statement about Cherry Gardens Day Centre, Bermondsey

5 January 2023

Cherry Gardens Day Centre in Bermondsey (formerly Riverside Day Centre) is a User Led Organisation (ULO) run by families of adults with learning disabilities. It was set up as a ULO after the closure of the Riverside Day Centre when the charity running it ended their services in the borough.

ULOs are models that emerged in Adult Social Care with the onset of Direct Payments, where people ask for cash alternatives to commissioned care and support. ULOs are not commissioned services and so operate differently from the likes of the Bede Centre and Southwark Resource Centre.

Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “We want nothing more than for Cherry Gardens Day Centre to succeed and grow. As with all new User Led Organisations, it takes time to get established so the council helped out by providing start-up funding and a building rent-free for two years with maintenance covered. While we look to fix the lift, activities can still be run from the large, accessible space on the ground floor.

“Our agreement with Cherry Gardens Day Centre did not include the gifting of a minibus. If transport is needed, we explained that we can help but we do not have minibuses of our own – we lease them. The centre’s offer and fee – worked up by them throughout last year – includes independent travel training. Some clients have mobility vehicles and some will need to pay using money they receive specifically to support them with their mobility from the council and/or the government. We cannot double fund this cost.

“We continue to be on hand to support and guide the members of Cherry Gardens Day Centre as they get to grips with how to run a User Led Organisation, including weekly check-ins. In addition to the help we have given so far, we made an advance payment of £10k to help pay carers over the Christmas period. We hope this will get them one step closer to becoming a sustainable day service, which is needed in the borough for people with learning disabilities and their family carers.”

Some ULOs are very successful, and they face some unique challenges, in addition to the usual challenges of running a day centre.

They can only charge their clients when they attend. In order to be sustainable, ULOs often need to establish a diverse income stream e.g. a mix of membership fees, donations, grants, and fundraising activity.

ULOs typically make their own arrangements for transport, charging one daily fee for clients without transport and a higher fee for those with transport e.g. mobility vehicles. Some people receive additional funds in their Direct Payment or in some Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) for mobility which is where they would pay for transport to the ULO from.

Page last updated: 05 January 2023