26 July, 2018
After four months of time wasting, Greenwich Council has forced the closure of children’s charity Wide Horizons, by making a last-minute U-turn not to lend the charity £200,000 as initially pledged. The charity will now be forced to close its doors to all nine of its outdoor centres as of 31st July.
As a result, thousands of school children and young people will not have the opportunity to experience adventure on the trips booked both for this summer and next year. A special residential event for children with HIV and AIDS due to take place in August at their Margaret McMillan centre in Kent, based on a similar event the charity provided for children from Grenfell tower last year, is just one of the trips that will be cancelled.
Chief Executive, Peter Rogers OBE said: “It’s tragic really. The council only took the decision yesterday not to provide the loan, having known for four months that we would have to close without it. We are bitterly disappointed as they had implied right up until yesterday that they would support us. As it stands, unless we can find £200k in the next week to match the £200k that has already been pledged by our other supporters we will have to close.
It has been confirmed that the decision was made without the consultation of the Cabinet or the full Council. It is somewhat shocking, given the fantastic community support received, as well as the fact that over 70% of Greenwich schools rely on Wide Horizons to provide their outdoor education. Yet, coincidentally, this decision has been made once all schools have broken up for the summer holidays. This results in Greenwich Council avoiding any backlash from schools, parents and pupils who will now miss out on life-changing trips already booked for the next school year.”
The charity’s closure will mean all nine outdoor centres will have to shut their doors at the end of July leading to the loss of 75 jobs. As well as affecting schools and children from Greenwich, schools from other areas including Lewisham, Walsall, Swanage and North Wales will also be impacted.
Chair of Trustees for Wide Horizons, John Russell, himself a former councillor added: “This is an amazingly short-sighted decision by the council. It will almost certainly cost them more than £200k to secure and maintain the properties that Wide Horizons currently lease from Greenwich but that will be left redundant and will subsequently need new people to run them. Wide Horizons has provided a fantastic service to the local community for many years and it is clear Greenwich Council do not realise how much it is valued, used and relied upon.
We have requested the council to rethink their decision and have informed them that we would be open to working with them to find a better solution. We would welcome any opportunities to discuss how we can preserve our services before they close at the end of the month.”
As it stands Wide Horizons is still hoping to secure the outstanding £200k that Greenwich Council have failed to deliver. If you are able to support the charity so they can provide even more incredible experiences to disadvantaged children and young people, they are urgently seeking generous pledges on their crowdfunding page so the adventures can continue into the future: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-wide-horizons