MS-UK’s Staffordshire centre on Stone’s Whitebridge Industrial Estate closed down on March 21st when its parent charity withdrew funding. But despite this setback, members and volunteers are determined to continue providing vital services for people with MS and other neurological conditions and are seeking a new venue.
MS-UK Staffordshire, previously called SAMS (Stone Active MS-ers) provided a huge range of support services for MS-sufferers and their families, celebrating its 10th anniversary last year.
“On Wednesday 19th February, MS-UK Staffordshire had a visit from MSD-UK’s new Chief Executive Amy Woolf,” relates Chair Christine Green, who ran an exercise group at the Whitebridge centre. “We were expecting to welcome her and discuss the way forward but were given the devastating news that MS-UK were withdrawing their support and as of March 21st would no longer fund our venue in Stone.”
Ms Woolf said the decision to close the Staffordshire Centre of MS-UK was taken as part of the charity’s strategy to provide services with a national focus.
But MS-UK Staffordshire’s former Chair Mike Clayton thinks there was another motive.
“When we opened SAMS to people affected by other life-limiting medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, strokes and epilepsy, MS-UK disapproved,”
he told the Gazette.
MS-sufferer Alan Green said:
“Because we have lost our charitable status, they have taken away access to any of the funds we have raised and left us with nothing. Our members would become isolated again – there would be no peer support or well-being classes for them and nowhere for them to go to and be themselves.”
MS-UK Staffordshire’s funds, including various grants from Staffordshire County Council and donations of £4,500 over four years from County Councillor Philip Jones, totalled £23,000.
Though the group’s last-ditch efforts to find a tenant to share their Whitebridge premises came to nothing, they will be able to keep some of their specialist equipment. “I can confirm that we will be leaving any equipment and furniture that is not owned by third parties for the group to use in future,“ said MS-UK’s Amy Woolf.
But in a bid to remain operational, the group has re-formed itself as STING – Staffordshire Therapeutic Independent Neurological Group. STING secretary, Liz Gumbley from Stone said the group is actively looking at ways to keep running.
“We are trying to appeal to local businesses to help us in the short term and we are going out fundraising, though this is limited without charity status, to try to secure our immediate future.”
“In the past under MS-UK, we have been restricted in who can use the centre, but now we have widened our base to help others with different neurological conditions.”
“We wish to thank all who have given their support locally over our 10 years, but watch this space – we are not gone yet!”
urged a determined Christine Green.
“We are actively seeking a new venue with disabled facilities and will rise like a Phoenix from the ashes!”
Anyone wishing to get involved with STING, are urged to email email@example.com or call Chris Green on 07752 044 330.