‘Outstanding’ Redbridge family assessment centre to close

Staff members have been left “devastated” by a decision to close Redbridge’s only residential assessment unit for troubled families.

Cabinet members on Tuesday voted to close the Thackeray Drive Residential Family Centre, in Goodmayes, laying off 12 care workers.

Thackeray Drive staff, who sat in the public gallery in Redbridge Town Hall, Ilford, were visibly upset following the meeting, but feared speaking to the Recorder could affect their redundancy package.

Unison branch representative Joel Glassman said: “The staff are devastated. The presentation made in the meeting about Thackeray Drive was completely incorrect and made the centre sound really bad - but it has just been awarded outstanding across the board by Ofsted.”

Mr Glassman received an email from Cllr Alan Weinberg, cabinet member for Children’s Services, just 35 minutes before the cabinet meeting started. He said the response failed to answer the concerns of the staff and unions over the closure.

The residential unit is used as a live-in assessment service for up to two families at once in cases where social workers or family courts had raised “serious concerns” about a child’s welfare.

Cllr Weinberg told the meeting: “Families at the centre are expected to share kitchen, lounge and laundry facilities, and that’s clearly unacceptable in this day and age.

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“If we were to continue without the report we could have a �200,000 overspend.”

He made it clear that other children’s and family day services at the Goodmayes site would be unaffected by the changes.

Staff were informed of the proposed closure on November 8, but council bosses prevented them from speaking about it until last week. The centre is expected to close by March and redundancies could cost the council �126,000.