David Pibworth | The Kitchener Centre Olney

David Pibworth article

As some of you may know there have been rumours of the Kitchener Centre being closed down. I have been told by the powers that be that there are no plans to close it.

I had no plans to stand for the Olney Town Council a year ago, and yet here I am on it, so plans can – and do – change and we need to keep an eye on this fantastic facility to ensure its future.

My plan is simple, we raise the profile of the Kitchener Centre, and if MK Council really have no plans to close it and will bring it back to what it was, which was an easily accessible drop in centre for vulnerable elderly local people to have company and fun with amazing staff, then great. I’m happy to be proved wrong.

If not, we need to fight and to that end I’m setting up a ‘friends of’ group which will be good either way. We could call it ‘Friends Of Kitchener’ shortened to FOK, and be known as the Fokkers – named after the successful Dutch aircraft manufacturer obviously. Or someone might come up with a better title but let me know if you want to be part of it as I’m collating names already and we could not only raise the profile, but also raise funds to help it.

It is under-used anyway. Even if it goes back to being a 09.00 – 16.00 Monday to Friday facility for vulnerable people, outside of those times and at weekends it could be hired out as a community hall, thus bringing in cash to help finance it.

I personally think that we should attempt to acquire the centre as a community asset for Olney because, and let’s not beat about the bush, in 2016 there was an attempt by MK Council to close it. It was well documented at the time and Olney ‘en masse’ stopped the closure, so when rumours once again started I felt it best to take it seriously.

The reason I’m suspicious is that – apart from the backing of Olney Town Council and the residents – I have had no help in finding a covenant on the land that Mr Kitchener left when he gifted it to the town. People I trust have told me they have seen it, and that it did appear when MKC last tried to close it, but I can’t find it. I’ve tried the lawyers and the land registry, who certainly would give us it if they had it, but they have no record of it. MK Council have been of no help and our own ward councillors have been very quiet over the matter. I’ve even been told that it is a ‘sensitive’ matter, but no-one will explain to me why it is ‘sensitive’. I’m even considering putting in a Freedom Of Information request to MK Council about it.

I’m told by my friends who know about such things that I won’t make friends with the ‘powers that be’ by mentioning this. To that I say, I’m not looking for friends amongst the great and the good, I’m looking to help ensure the future of the Kitchener Centre. If they can help me then I welcome that with open arms. If they won’t then I have to find ways to do this without them. Hence this article.

I have to confess that I spoke to a pal up north who knows a lot about council matters to ask what might happen if MK Council wanted shot of me for being a pain, (as my moles tell me that I’ve stirred things up at MK) and he said that I could be told off and advised to attend a course to learn about how to be a responsible councillor. I asked what happened if I told them to ‘shove it’ and he thought that they may then advise me to go on a course to explain why I shouldn’t tell them to ‘shove it’. So as you can imagine I’m quivering in my boots. I should point out that this is only my view and I speak on behalf of no-one else on OTC.

The bottom line of this, is that it seems that Adult Social Care in MK are making it hard for people to get their loved ones into the Kitchener Centre. I have had a number of residents saying that they can’t get their elderly parents in without an assessment.

When I took my mum and dad there a few years back, we chatted to the lovely staff there, and were accepted in the same week. If people could pay then they did and if they didn’t have the funds then social services would help, so everyone could access it easily.

Now it appears that people can’t take their vulnerable old people there like we did. There has to be a ‘straightforward’ assessment they tell us. From what local people have told us this is far from straightforward, so some of us at OTC are asking MK Adult Care Services the following:

1) The eligibility for access, 2) The application procedure, 3) The assessment process, 4) The waiting list/anticipated time between application and acceptance, 5) The cost to individuals and 6) What financial support is available.

We are awaiting a meeting as the last one had to be postponed due to someone having to isolate.

As the days go by I find out more and more, and was told recently that £68,000 was given to the centre to build the dining area and that money came from Section 106 money from an Olney development. Apparently not all of the money was spent on the project.

But getting detail is quite difficult and if anyone at all can come forward with anything that may help then please do so.

David Pibworth

David Pibworth | Phoneboxmagazine

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