More than 900 sign petition to help Hatfield club for children with autism and ADHD find new home
PUBLISHED: 11:30 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:36 18 December 2018
A volunteer-run Hatfield organisation supporting young people with autism and ADHD has been left without a permanent home after being given notice to leave its current centre.
Potential Kids has used a space in Beaconsfield Court, Hatfield, since it launched March, but the building recently changed hands.
Prior to the sale, its tenant had informally provided space in the building for use by Potential Kids, which offers a safe and supportive place for young people on the autism spectrum or with ADHD through social and activity groups.
The building is now owned by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) and will be turned into a hub for start-up businesses.
A council spokeswoman said: “We’re investing in Beaconsfield Court to provide local businesses with a flexible office space to start-up and grow, boosting the economy and encouraging investment in Hatfield.
“We agreed to purchase the building from the seller on the understanding that the existing occupants were using the space temporarily, and that they had already left the building when we exchanged contracts.
“As soon as we discovered this was not the case, we stepped in to help the group, ensuring they’re able to continue using the space until mid-January.”
An online petition on website Change.org started by Potential Kids on Saturday to raise awareness of the situation and garner community support to find a permanent site had received almost 900 signatures by Monday morning.
Potential Kids director Susanna Mateu said the situation had created “instability” for the children and their families, who were informed after the final session of the year at the centre on Saturday.
More than 1,500 families have come through their door since March.
The not-for-profit must vacate by January 15, seven weeks after being notified of its need to relocate.
WHBC has offered alternative spaces to Potential Kids, who deemed them unsuitable and lacking the required space and storage.
The council spokeswoman said: “We have offered alternative venues to the group, provided contact information for all community centres in the borough and explained how to apply for our community grant scheme.
“We will continue our efforts to help and assist wherever we can.”
YMCA and other organisations who use the space are also impacted by the building being vacated.
Hatfield Town Council Leader Lenny Brandon, who has been “heavily involved” with Potential Kids this year, claimed if WHBC understood “the true consequences in making them homeless” it would “re-evaluate the situation”.
“I believe the question needs to be asked as to what might be more important for our town: a couple of new businesses, or a resource that is helping a multitude of residents cope with social isolation, stigma and prejudice, and giving the children the opportunity to learn and have fun, increase their self esteem and build their self confidence?”