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Aberdeen support service closure leaves service users and carers ‘devastated’ and worried about what is next

Cornerstone Aberdeen has been told to improve by inspectors. Supplied by Shutterstock.
Cornerstone Aberdeen has been told to improve by inspectors. Supplied by Shutterstock.

An Aberdeen support service for those with additional needs and disabilities is being shut in summer, leaving users and carers “devastated”.

Stewart Craft Centre in Torry will be closing on June 30 after a reported decrease in available funding and the contract with the council ends.

The day service offers users with learning disabilities the opportunity to build on skills in arts and crafts.

Before Covid, it supported nearly 100 users a week but this has since reduced to 27 users after two of the buildings had to remain closed.

Mum and carer Isabella Duncan said her daughter is “absolutely devastated” by the closure.

“My daughter attends the club and she absolutely loves it,” Ms Duncan said. “She goes twice a week.

“But she’s absolutely devastated that those two days are being taken away from her and we don’t know what she’s going to do.”

Daughter has come on in ‘leaps and bounds’

Some of the items Ms Duncan’s daughter has made at Stewart Craft over the years. Supplied by Isabella Duncan.

Ms Duncan, aged 60, said her daughter has made models, ornaments, cushion and even tapestries at the workshop. Some of them have been so good, she said, they could have been given as gifts.

The mum said she has seen her daughter’s confidence grow during her attendance over the last six years.

The resident of Heathryfold added: “Her social skills have come on greatly, she’s got friends that she would have never had before, she actually meets up with friends out of the house or workplace.

“She’s come on leaps and bounds. She wouldn’t have spoken to anybody or looked at anybody when she first went there and now she’s got loads of friends.

Parents might be forced to cut back on work

For so many like Ms Duncan and her daughter, a lot of service users will have to find another support service to attend. However, Ms Duncan said for the few left in the city, they tend to have long waiting lists which could leave many without help.

While she said this was going to have a “drastic effect” on those being supported, Ms Duncan explained many parents would also be put in a difficult situation.

Isabella Duncan.

She said: “My daughter was attending them for me to be able to work so I’m sitting here at this moment in time thanking the Lord that I retired last month.

“For parents that are working it’s going to be a nightmare. Where I worked they had a lot of understanding that I had a daughter with special needs and they were very good but not everybody is like that.

“It’s going to be devastating for parents and the whole family because if they haven’t got anywhere to go, the parent can’t go to work.”

Hopes that safe and alternative placements can be found

Martyn Thomson, day manager at Stewart Craft said: “After over 15 years within the Torry community it is with great sadness that the Stewart Craft Centre will be closing at the end of June.

“On behalf of all management and staff at Stewart Craft, past and present, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our service users, families and friends of the centre for their unwavering support throughout this time.

“Especially recently for the many heartfelt messages received and local campaigning since news broke.

“Hopefully the priority going forward should be that suitable and safe alternative placements for everyone that currently attends our centre will be found or created by those that tasked with doing so before we close so the disruption to the service users is kept to a minimum.”

The closure of the service follows after many families in Aberdeen have said there is very little support in place for those caring for people with autism or with learning disabilities. 

Council communicating with those affected

The council said they worked supportively with the centre to offer advice and guidance about potential business development opportunities prior to the contract naturally ending.

However, they said Stewart Craft informed them they will close on the June 30.

An Aberdeen city health and social care partnership spokeswoman said: “Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership has been communicating with those individuals affected by this situation and has been supporting them to explore alternative community opportunities, so they can continue to achieve their goals and maximise their independence.

“We have carried out a full review of services and local demand and there are a variety of high-quality services that individuals will be supported to access if they wish to do so.”

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