A petition to save the only disabled gym in inner London has almost reached its target of 6,000 signatures but campaigners have warned they need a financial donor to come forward before it is too late.
Ability Bow gym has already been forced to axe its long-term physical rehabilitation support service due to cuts. The closest site to London to provide the same service is now near Birmingham.
The gym has a range of specialist training equipment and most recently acquired an FES bike as part of its portfolio.
The service helped 400 people a year to regain function after stroke, brain damage, spinal damage and other complex and serious conditions. But 60% of people referred by the NHS needed long term help which they are not getting now, according to Richard Amm, who set up the petition.
“The council pays for 12 total hours of one to one rehabilitation,” he explained. “This charity gym would see people one to one for as long as they needed it. It cost them £70 a session to run and they only charged people £4.50. This was their core service: long term subsidised physical rehabilitation. When it was closed down, half their staff were lost. It was one of three places in the UK that provided this type of service.”
While the venue is open for people to access independently, Mr Amm said that 60% of people referred there required the long term rehabilitation service which is no longer available.
“Most ‘accessible’ gyms are just step-free, few have specialist machines or appropriately trained staff to help with complex medical conditions. This is the only truly inclusive gym that would help no matter how severe your disability,” he said.
The waiting list for the gym is understood to be more than 100 people long, with bosses claiming that demand for its services has actually increased during the time that the funding has been cut.
Campaigners are now calling on a government partner to safeguard the future of the rehabilitation service.
“The gym has a small efficient structure which means that the majority of the money raised goes directly to the people who need it,” said Mr Amm. “Two thirds of their funding they generate themselves through marathons, donations and memberships. Allowing this service to be destroyed is economically unsound as well as a morally disgraceful. Until we save this service vulnerable disabled people will have no access to exercise, they will remain isolated in their homes, with little hope of improvement, and increasingly reliant upon their GPs, hospitals and the social services.”