Young Norfolk people with disabilities face 66-mile round trip to get vital help - as council clocks up £250,000 travel bill

The Hamlet Centre Trust building in Ella Road, Norwich.

The Hamlet Centre Trust building in Ella Road, Norwich. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

Eight young people with disabilities are having to make a 66-mile round trip from Thetford to Norwich to get vital support – because there is nowhere suitable nearer their homes.

They are among about 40 people in the Thetford area for whom Norfolk County Council is paying £250,000 a year in transport to adult social care services, because of the lack of closer support.

Council bosses have acknowledged people with learning disabilities and other complex needs should not have to endure such long-distance travelling.

The eight currently have to travel, mainly in taxis, from Thetford to the Hamlet Centre in Norwich, which provides specialist, tailor-made services to adults from its base in Ella Road.

But Norfolk County Council, currently consulting over £123m of cuts and savings, hopes a solution can be found by converting a former school in Thetford.

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The council is looking to convert the Elm Road Centre in the town into a community hub, which would offer services for young people with complex needs, including short-term respite care units.

A spokesman said: 'This would reduce the need for young people travelling long distances as support would be available more locally. The idea would be to support young people to move into adulthood, to help support people to become more independent within their community and to support carers and families.

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'We have drawn up a business case which includes considerable upgrading of the property, but no decisions have been taken and there is some way to go before this happens.'

The Elm Road Centre, a former referral unit for excluded pupils, shut in 2011.

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