Contract delayed again for centre for the blind

Charity staff have been left demoralised after council bosses delayed the end of a major contract for a fourth time.

The Society for the Blind of Dewsbury, Batley and District lost a Kirklees Council rehabilitation contract to the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf (BID) earlier this year.

The Midlands-based charity was expected to take over the service from August 19, but the transition has been delayed until October 13.

Staff from the Society, which is based in Soothill, held talks with the council last Friday to get an explanation.

Society treasurer Terry Armstead said: “It is frustrating for everyone involved in the rehabilitation team and their morale is on the deck.

“It is the fourth time the staff have been asked to clear their desks, but yet again we are told the contract has been delayed.”

Four members of the rehabilitation team are having their contracts transferred to BID under employment legislation which protects their terms and conditions of employment.

It is this process which is thought to be causing the delay.

Mr Armstead said: “We were told it has almost been resolved and the council is quite confident they will hit the deadline on October 13.”

A council spokesman said: “We have had further meetings with representatives from the Society for the Blind and are discussing with them how the council will continue to support them.

“Positive progress is being made on the transfer of contracted services to the new provider and we expect this to happen very shortly.“

The charity will continue to offer a range of services to the blind and visually impaired community in Kirklees after the contract is handed over.

But a shortfall in income following the loss of the council contract means the Whitfield Centre will only open three days a week from next month.

The society’s remaining rehabilitation staff will work from home or visit clients on Mondays and Fridays.

Mr Armstead said: “Once we lost the contract, we could not afford to carry on as we were.”