Home Children and Young People For the Record – Moving Senses accommodation

For the Record – Moving Senses accommodation

by Jonathan Kearney

In recent weeks, the Council has received a number of enquiries regarding the future of Moving Senses – a charitable organisation that delivers short break provision for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and / or Disabilities (SEND).

There have also been a number of negative social media posts alleging that the Council is “kicking Moving Senses out of their home” and that “the Council does not care about the SEND community”.

This is completely untrue. Here are the facts:

What is the background?

For the last 5 years, Moving Senses has had an informal arrangement with Knowsley Council to deliver their services, from the Southmead Centre in Whiston – a building owned and managed by the Council.

Throughout that time, the Council has allowed Moving Senses to use this accommodation completely free of charge (no rent has been charged at any point). The Council has also funded all of the day-to-day running costs of the building.

Unfortunately, the Southmead Centre is an aging building in poor condition and requires significant investment to reach the standards required to be fit for purpose for Moving Senses, or other providers.

As early as 2021, the Council began discussions with the services located at the Southmead Centre about the condition of the building and the need to relocate. Over the last 12 months in particular, the Council has worked closely to support those based there (including Moving Senses) to vacate the building and find alternative accommodation.

All Council services have already moved out of the building. Moving Senses is the only remaining occupant.

Why is the Council not keeping the building open?

The Council commissioned a Condition Survey of the building in May 2024 to fully consider the costs associated with repairing and keeping open the Southmead Centre.

This survey confirmed that an immediate investment of approximately £765,000 is required for the building to be in a suitable condition to allow it to be safe for occupation beyond 31 August 2024.

It was also estimated that an additional investment of £750,000 would be needed over the next 3 to 5 years to maintain the condition of the centre.

Without this level of investment, the building will continue to deteriorate, and it will become unsafe.

The Council does not have the funding to invest in this building.

What has the Council done to support Moving Senses?

Alongside providing free of charge accommodation for the last 5 years, the Council has been in regular discussion to support Moving Senses. The situation with the building has been made clear on many occasions and the Council has worked with partners across Knowsley to explore alternative accommodation to allow Moving Senses to continue delivering their services.

Unfortunately, despite numerous proposals being explored, Moving Senses have not found any of the alternatives to be suitable to their specific needs.

The Council has also offered support to Moving Senses by identifying grant funding they could apply for to support their operations.

In July 2023, the Council agreed to further support Moving Senses, by granting the charity a licence to allow them to occupy the building for another year on a temporary basis – again completely cost free – whilst they found alternative accommodation.

At the time of granting this temporary licence, the Council made it clear to Moving Senses that;

  • their continued use of the Southmead Centre could only be temporary;
  • the building simply was not fit for purpose or designed to meet their needs;
  • the Council could not make the repairs needed due to the significant costs required; and
  • Moving Senses would need to find alternative accommodation by the end of August 2024. (This provided a further 12-month’s notice to Moving Senses).

Despite this extension, Moving Senses has still not secured alternative accommodation.

What will happen next?

The Southmead Centre will close at the end of August 2024.

Moving Senses has indicated to the Council, but not confirmed, that they will no longer operate after this date.

What does this mean for support for children and young people with special educational needs and / or disabilities in Knowsley?

Moving Senses is one of a number of organisations that provides support and services for children and young people with special educational needs and / or disabilities.

Whilst the Council hopes that Moving Senses is able to continue its operations, it is important to remember that there are other organisations providing high quality support and services to hundreds of families each year.

Currently the Council does not commission any services directly from Moving Senses.

In Knowsley, there is a range of support, services and activities on offer – you can find out more here – Knowsley Local Offer.