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Fresh hope for Ipswich Foyer in Star Lane as decision over closure delayed

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:16 24 October 2016

The Ipswich Foyer in Star Lane.

The Ipswich Foyer in Star Lane.

Hopes of saving a supported housing scheme for vulnerable young people in Ipswich are still alive as bosses delay making a final decision on its future.

But residents living at the Foyer in Star Lane have been promised alternative accommodation and help services after March next year if the closure does go ahead.

Earlier this year Centra, a not-for-profit company which operated the Foyer, ran a 12-week public consultation on behalf of site owner Circle Housing Wherry to gain views on the proposal to shut the site, which offers up to two years accommodation to homeless people aged between 16 and 24.

John Turk, director of care and support for Centra, said: “We’re grateful for the huge amount of feedback we received during the public consultation, showing that many people in the local area are in favour of keeping the Foyer open.

“In light of this feedback and in order to consider all the options available to us, the board have requested additional information before making a final decision at their next board meeting.

“Our primary concern is for the residents of the Foyer. We have reassured them that whatever happens, they will still continue to be able to access these services as normal until the end of March 2017 and after this date, regardless of the outcome of this consultation, alternative accommodation and support services will be available in Ipswich, even if this isn’t provided by the Foyer.”

Circle Housing Wherry could close the Foyer because of a lack of funding. In its consultation document, Circle Housing Wherry says money for support services has been reduced massively and the Foyer building is very large and expensive to run.

It adds: “Circle Housing Wherry believes that the accommodation and facilities at the Foyer are no longer of an acceptable standard for young people and the building needs significant investment.

“The income received for the Foyer is no longer covering the cost of running the service and as both rental income and funding for support are likely to reduce in the future, the financial position is likely to get worse.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council, which funds the Foyer, said: “Regardless of the situation with Circle Housing at present, Suffolk County Council intends to move forward with a tender process, seeking to provide an accommodation based support service for young people in years to come.

“The new arrangements for this service are due to start in April 2017. We are continuing discussions with Circle Housing in the short term as they seek further information following their recent consultation.”

News that the Foyer was under threat was met with a wave of protest by the Ipswich community.

One petition against its closure launched by former resident Becki Bunn received more than 2,800 signatures. Miss Bunn said: “I think that the success of the petition really did bring to light how important people believe a resource like The Foyer is.

“The testimonials from people who have experienced or are currently within The Foyer, I think were particularly helpful, and it’s wonderful that the response was so overwhelming.”

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