Thousands of people sign petition to keep ‘lifeline’ service


By Julie Waters

DISTRAUGHT local parents are ‘hopeful’ that a local health trust will ‘find a solution’ to save a vital centre for adults with learning disabilities from closure.   

In the past week the campaign to save the Action Mental Health (AMH) Promote Centre in Bangor from closure has gathered momentum with 3,611 people signing a petition calling for the closure to be stopped.

Newtownards mum Aileen Walker, whose son Adam has severe autism and has ‘blossomed’ at the centre, has called on both the charity and the South Eastern Health Trust to ‘stop messing about with young people’s lives.’

During a meeting with the Promote family steering group and AMH bosses earlier this week it emerged the funding deficit needed to keep the service running was around £100,000 or 25% of the £400,000 annual running costs.

With less than 11 weeks until the centre is due to close its doors on March 31, North Down MP Stephen Farry has led the call for the Trust to provide the ‘relatively small resources’ of around £100,000 per year.

A Trust spokeswoman has confirmed they are ‘actively looking for alternative day opportunities for the 50 adults that avail of their services and ‘a number of organisations have already expressed an interest in providing a day opportunity for them’. 

Just last week, AMH announced the shock closure to families in an ‘out of the blue’ email, saying it was due to ‘budgetary constraints’ after delivering the Promote Day Opportunities Service on behalf of the Trust for the past 15 years.

The Promote family steering group is now calling for an urgent meeting with the health trust as they say the charity has offered the purpose built centre building to the Trust for future use.

Mandy McCreight, whose son Ben attends the centre five days a week, said the families ‘were encouraged that the Trust will find a solution to carry on this much loved service for our loved ones’ following a meeting with AMH chief executive David Babington earlier this week.

Speaking on behalf of the steering group, Mrs McCreight  said the meeting was unremarkable in terms of finding a solution to move forward and for Promote to remain open.

“However, it was heartening to hear that AMH have offered the purpose built building, which currently houses the Promote service, to the Trust for future use. 

“Therefore, we are forever hopeful and encouraged that the Trust will find a solution to carry on this essential and much loved service for our loved ones.” 

Turning to the charity’s financial difficulties Mrs McCreight said the main issue for AMH is that the Promote service is no longer financially viable.

“Mr Babington told us that in November 2023 AMH informed the Trust that they wished to terminate their contract as the continued losses could not be sustained. 

“When figures were requested Mr Babington stated that the shortfall deficit was approximately 25% of the £400,000 per annum required to fund the service.

“He explained that AMH had been operating at a loss for a considerable time and had been in ‘serious’ consultation with the Trust as far back as June 2023.” 

Mrs MeCreight said that parents and carers also voiced their concerns regarding the ‘absence of any consultation in the lead up to the final decision made by AMH to terminate the contract’ and the ‘manner in which the news was communicated’ by email. 

Highlighting the impact the closure decision was having on local families, she said: “Emotions were understandably high as individual stories were related regarding the current and potential future impact of this heartbreaking news. 

“We would be hopeful that Mr Babington will take guidance from the mental health experts within his organisation to fully support this change and transition for Promote staff and loved ones.” 

She said: “Responsibility for continuation was portrayed to lie firmly at the door of the trust, who we are told are currently working diligently to find and secure a resolution to continue the Promote service.

“The Promote family have now agreed that our priority is to find a mutually convenient date, time and venue to physically meet with the trust with the aim and focus of keeping Promote open.”

To sign the petition ‘Stop the closure of AMH Promote’ log on to:

Mandy McCreight