A SOCIAL club for adults with learning disabilities is struggling for members after a forced venue change and pandemic restrictions meant the group couldn’t run for almost two years.

Our Place Barnsley’s leader and founding member, Kerrie Whiteside, said the group’s membership has dwindled from over 50 before the pandemic to only a handful of people per session since their reopening in December.

The meetings – which provide social recreation sessions for adults with learning disabilities – used to be based at Priory Campus in Lundwood until it was turned into a Covid-19 vaccination centre and they were forced to find a venue elsewhere.

After months of struggling to find a venue suitable for the accessibility needs of members, Kerrie secured a room at Fairfield House on Berneslai Close in the town centre, and only reopened with normal hours on Monday, for the first time in 21 months.

“We’ve suffered really badly because of the pandemic, in all sorts of ways, and it’s just seemed to be one thing after another,” said Kerrie.

“We were in limbo for some time with not having anywhere to host members, then it’s been challenging finding somewhere suitable.

“I think people assume running a group like this is a side job but it’s actually a lot of hard work.

“I’ve sometimes had to make the decision to take a pay cut myself just so that my other member of staff can be paid.

“We have a very small income as we rely on grant funding and subs from our members – which have seriously gone down in numbers.

“It took a lot longer than we wanted to open at the new venue – but there was work to be done to make it nice for our members, and we’ve spent around £1,000 just making it accessible and suitable for everyone.

“I just want to see the group become as active as it was before the pandemic.”