SURREY County Council (SCC) has been accused of depriving vulnerable autistic adults and refusing to accept £360,000 of charitable money raised by The Simon Trust (TST).
Linden Farm, a six-acre site in Alfold, is a flagship new venture by Surrey County Council (SCC) to bring 10 disabled young adults back into the county and nearer their families.
These 10 people are severely autistic - several are also epileptic, but all need 1:1 care. They each cost the council around £200,000 a year in out of county placements.
A revised planning application has been submitted - WA/2018/1044 - where the activity centre has been reduced from the approved 272 square metres to 150 square metres, with an internal rearrangement needed to reflect the new size. Originally planned horticultural facilities have been removed, as has a cycle track, food technology kitchen, enlarged sports area and a chicken coop. The sensory room has also been “reduced to an unusable small size”, according to the Farnham founders of TST .
Founded in 2015, TST has fundraised specifically to finance these facilities, but the county council reportedly does not want this money. The charity wants SCC to revert back to the originally approved plan for Linden Farm with appropriate onsite facilities.
One of the 10 autistic adults due to move into Linden Farm next summer is 25 year-old Simon, son of the charity founders, Peter and Sally Lawrence. Speaking to the Herald, Peter described him as six feet four, very bouncy and in need of 1:1 care at all times, or 2:1 care outside.
He said: “We all agreed back in 2014 that they needed to be brought back into the county near their families.
“Facility opportunities for children are extensive, there are schools and charities - it’s a sort of nice area of autism. As soon as they hit adulthood, no one wants to know about them.
“Once a week TST gets desperate families saying their son or daughter is back and they’re asking us ‘what do we do?’.
“This is why Linden Farm is so important. It’s the first of its kind in surrey, but SCC is making a complete mess of it.”
Having spent the last two-and-a-half years fundraising, the charity raised £360,000 to be used towards facilities. They have since stopped fundraising “because SCC don’t want the money”.
Mr Lawrence added: “Why should Linden Farm be any different to any other Surrey care home?
“Linden Farm is such a flagship centre for SCC and could be a centre of excellence if they used charitable money. I don’t know why they won’t use it.
“We’re going to carry on raising awareness of this ridiculous situation.
“Why can’t charities work with a council - they are all short of cash. We understand they haven’t got a limitless pool of money, but we are putting up our hands and saying we can provide money for it.
“These kids should have what they need and deserve.”
Peter went on to say he feels “frustrated” by the situation, which is a “battle we’ve got to win”.
“It’s a terrifying scenario because there’s nowhere else for them to go,” he continued.
“The plans have a three or four metre diameter basketball hoop, a swing, a trampoline and that’s it. That’s not going to keep them entertained or amused.
“It becomes unsuitable as it doesn’t meet their needs, the council have to meet their needs. Carting them offsite just doesn’t work.
“Simon likes doing things like planting seeds into a seed box and sweeping up straw from goats - the council forgets it is actually an old farm. Why not reinvent it?”
Explaining why changes have been made and why the council has not taken the charitable money, a SCC spokesperson said: “We’re investing £5.5m in Linden Farm, however with council finances under huge pressure it is important this remains within budget and because of some unexpected issues during construction we believe it will become necessary to make some changes in design.
“We’ve been unable to reach an agreement with The Simon Trust over funding but we’re aware of the demands of these young people and will ensure the site and care provided is suitable for everyone who is eligible to live there.”