Drovers Centre to close over costs despite users’ opposition

Drovers Centre. Photograph: Google.

A much-loved activity centre for older people is to be closed from the start of next year because of funding difficulties, despite the majority of its users’ pleas for it to remain open.

Services at the council-owned Drovers Centre are set to end in late January 2020, with the Town Hall preparing to look at turning the site into “much-needed housing”.

Over half of 118 respondents to a council consultation said that the loss of Drovers would have a significant impact on their level of social contact, with 74 per cent of 107 people reached by questionnaire opposing its closure.

In a petition to local MP Emily Thornberry attempting to prevent the closure which gained 282 signatories, campaigner Diane Armstrong wrote: “The Drovers is a very important place to so many people. It provides a haven for users who without the centre would probably go for days if not weeks without seeing another person.

“It runs a variety of services that would be unaffordable elsewhere for a huge proportion of older people in the borough.

“The centre being closed will be a devastating blow for some of the most vulnerable residents of Islington and will leave them isolated and alone.”

The Town Hall have pointed out that the Drovers currently requires around £170k in repairs, with the annual £90k it pays Age UK Islington proving insufficient in recent years, with the full cost of services estimated at £150k yearly.

Age UK themselves had decided to discontinue their services at the Drovers from the end of January 2020, with the council casting doubt on whether a new provider could be found and maintaining that it cannot increase funding from its adult social care budget.

Cllr Janet Burgess (Lab, Junction), executive member for health & social care & deputy council leader said: “Whilst the consultation demonstrated the considerable values and benefits that the Drovers Centre offers and indicates the risks and impacts of closure, it is considered that these could be successfully addressed and mitigated through the broad and diverse range of other services available.

“Alternative options have been considered, but are not recommended as they do not address the underlying problems and with Age UK ceasing to provide services at the Drovers from the end of January 2020 there is no guarantee that an alternative provider could be identified.”