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Learning disability campaigners come out fighting in favour of Windsor Street development

PUBLISHED: 09:17 28 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:37 28 February 2018

Staff, supporters and service users group from learning disability charity Elfrida. Pictured front, Nikki Carter, service user. Picture: Polly Hancock

Staff, supporters and service users group from learning disability charity Elfrida. Pictured front, Nikki Carter, service user. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Campaigners backing divisive plans to build homes for people with learning disabilities in Windsor Street say opponents “misunderstand” how badly the service is needed.

Staff, supporters and service users group from Elfrida. Picture: Polly Hancock Staff, supporters and service users group from Elfrida. Picture: Polly Hancock

Councillors will decide whether to approve the proposals on Thursday night. A petition against the scheme was signed by 56 neighbours who say it is not a suitable location.

But their claims it is opposed by Learning Disability England have been rubbished by supporters of the scheme, who contacted the body themselves. They also say a recent survey of family carers in the borough showed all 132 supported the scheme.

Mark Austin, chair of the Islington Family Carers Reference Group, said: “The opponents appear to misunderstand the urgency of the need for this development, and have made misleading claims about it. They claim Learning Disability England is against the scheme, even though LDE is actually supportive. They say the proposal goes against national guidance, when it does no such thing.

“Currently 122 learning-disabled people live out of borough, and for most this was not their choice. Families face the heartache of having their loved ones sent away because there isn’t enough appropriate accommodation for them in Islington.”

Speaking at the meeting will be Dr Virginia Bovell. Her son Danny lives in a similar housing scheme in Leigh Road, Highbury, which opened in 2014 following similar reservations from neighbours.

“The needs of some adults with learning disabilities are broad and complex,” said Dr Bovell. “Some are wheelchair users and many have communication difficulties. For the people who are unable to speak, proximity to families can literally be a life-saver.

“It’s vital for Danny’s health and wellbeing that he lives just five minutes away so I can see him every day. I honestly don’t know what would have happened to us if this accommodation had not been available.”

Someone who lives near the Leigh Road development is Prof Anne Power, head of housing and communities at London School of Economics. She said it had “clearly been a real success”.

“The people who live there are model tenants, and I have not experienced any noise or disturbance since it opened,” she said.

Nabeel Akram is a member of the Power and Control Group of adults with learning disabilities. He grew up in Islington but now lives in Tottenham because there’s no suitable home in his own borough. He said: “It’s difficult to live outside Islington because I have had to leave my doctors and I miss my friends.”

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