Lewisham Council is pushing ahead with plans to close the ‘Opening Doors’ service which provides support for the unemployed -focussing on single parents, over 50s, minority groups and those on incapacity benefit.
The news comes in the same week that research from the ‘Wise Owls’ recruitment agency indicated that Lewisham is among the three London boroughs with the poorest records in recruiting the over 50s.
However, users and supporters of the centre are campaigning hard in the hope of achieving a last-minute reprieve. Beresford Peart, a volunteer, said: “In a time when everyone is losing their jobs, they close down a place like this that helps people learn new skills and get back into work. It makes no sense. We would like the mayor to reconsider closure on 18 February.”
The campaigners have collected over 1,000 signatures in an online petition and hope to present their appeal in person to the Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, next Monday morning.
The benefit provided to the community is reflected in the council’s own report on closure, which states: “The proposal will impact negatively on minority ethnic groups, who make up 66 per cent of service users. It is also clear that ‘Opening Doors’ supports a significant number of long term unemployed people, who are likely to be those furthest from the job market.”
‘Opening Doors’ was founded ten years ago and has brokered jobs for over 2,000 people in the last year alone. The centre specialises in helping clients build confidence, write CVs, prepare for interviews and develop IT skills.
This local cut forms part of the first phase in the Council’s budget saving proposals for 2011 to 2014. Although the council promised to issue advice on alternative services, no further information has been forthcoming to date.