Ripon Community Link takes legal action against support group

Families affected by cuts to Ripon Community Link.
Families affected by cuts to Ripon Community Link.

Ripon Community Link is taking legal action against a support group set up to represent families affected by cuts to the charity's services.

Members of the group have described the Link's allegations of offensive social media postings and defamatory statements as "totally unfounded," and say the charity's actions are a way of deflecting attention away from an ongoing investigation by the Charity Commission into the organisation's management.

Supermarket evacuated as sinkhole opens up in Ripon

Parents say all they have ever wanted is answers, ever since Community Link made the decision to no longer support 12 of its most severely disabled members.

But in a statement, Ripon Community Link has confirmed that they have taken legal action and reported the support group to the police.

A spokesperson for the charity said: "Whist this action is unprecedented and regrettable, we were compelled to take it to protect the reputation of the charity from malicious falsehoods, offensive social media postings impacting staff, and a potential data breach.”

Valerie Cocker, whose son Stephen is no longer supported by the Link, said: "I really can’t believe this is happening. The charity that we entrusted our son to, threw him out, and now it threatens legal action against a group because it wants to know how that same charity, with such a glowing financial report in 2017, got into such dire straits that it had to discharge it’s most vulnerable members with ten days' notice.

Alarm as sinkhole opens in Ripon city centre: Residents react

"Caring for a severely disabled adult is gruelling. It is, literally, a labour of love. These parents not only care for the children, they have jobs and others to care for. Stephen started his new placement two weeks ago and by that time we were exhausted. I can only imagine how difficult it is for those families with no placements. For Stephen and his friends, Ripon Community Link provided a safe, loving and stimulating environment. It provided a place to make friends, have fun and learn. It was a social life.

"This family and many others relied on The Link and it let us down. It destroyed, and arguably, it continues to destroy, trust and confidence, not only for families, but for former staff and volunteers."

A statement from the action group reads: "We know, and wholeheartedly believe that the recent allegations of data breach and defamation are totally unfounded, and are aimed at deflecting attention away from the events and actions of the the executive of Ripon Community Link.

"The support group was set up after the events at the charity since June 2017 - events which resulted in the Charity Commission opening a regulatory review into very serious concerns.

"The group’s aims are to support and represent past and present members, families and staff, and to try to ensure the security of the charity going forward.

"All that is needed is honesty, transparency, and the information requested, in order to give any confidence in those responsible for running Ripon Community Link."

"Now it appears that the support group is being denied any public voice."

Olive Blair, whose son Stevie is still supported by Community Link, said the group is needed to help families through a turbulent time.

She said: "I told Stevie that change is very often a way of life and that hopefully, he would eventually get used to these changes and that, as always, as his mum I would be there to help him through what could prove to be a tough time for him.

"But I have noticed he has become very quiet, and not his usual cheery self at all - something I noticed about other members when I attended the coffee morning at the Town Hall - suggesting the changes have had an upsetting and negative affect on our vulnerable young people."