Reflecting on 40 years of community support in Wantage

The staff and adults from the county council’s Wantage Community Support Service (CSS) at the Charlton Centre have been taking a look back through the archives as they celebrate the venue’s 40th anniversary.

On 2 December 1983, crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of Princess Diana as she officially opened the facility to the east of Wantage, by planting a sapling in the centre’s garden.

Forty years on and the same mulberry tree now towers over the centre and the service has supported more than 200 adults in that time.Princess Diana 6

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “Wantage community support service has a long and important history, supporting adults from the town and the surrounding areas.

“From its royal opening to its current form, the centre has been a lifeline for people with additional needs, supporting them to live their best life.”

Back in 1983, Oxfordshire County Council’s Wantage CSS was called Charlton Training Centre and supported adults with learning disabilities. The building was used for various activities, including carpentry and woodwork as well as gardening in the land behind the centre. It would also sell the products it grew and made, bringing in some extra funds to the service.

During her visit, Princess Diana spoke with many of the adults who used the centre, listening to their stories and asking questions about their experiences. Keith Tollett still regularly attends Wantage CSS and was there on the day.

Keith said: “I had a lovely day! Diana was very pretty and kind and lovely to everyone.”

As the years moved on, the centre was adapted for the changing social care needs of the time. Wantage Market Garden was created in the green space behind the service and is now looked after by community action group, Sustainable Wantage, in partnership with care providers Style Acre and the county council.

Lady Diana TreeCharlton Training Centre was renamed Charlton Day Service, before becoming Wantage Community Support Service in 2017, when even more adults were supported to use the centre, including those with aging health conditions such as dementia and people with mental health needs.

A greater emphasis is now placed on supporting people outside of the centre, including recent visits to Oxford’s Natural History Museum and a walk around Ladygrove Lakes.

To celebrate the centre’s 40th anniversary, the staff at Wantage CSS are hosting an inclusive and accessible disco for the adults who use the service, as well as their family and carers.

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