A KEY community charity that supports some of the area’s most vulnerable is desperately searching for new premises after the council decided not to extend its lease.

Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF) has been providing advice, support services and help to people with learning disability and the elderly since the early 90s.

Having survived a summer of financial difficulty last year thanks to generous private donations, the charity was told the lease on its offices behind the council on Epping High Street would not be renewed.

Despite two months of searching, a new home has not been found, putting VAEF's future in doubt.

Chief Officer Jaqui Foile said: "We have been advised by the district council that they are going to take back the premises in March.

"It is presenting us with a lot of challenges. We have to be centrally located but it is expensive round here."

The charity needs space for eight offices and a base for 20 workers who run gardening clubs for the elderly and outreach work for people with learning disabilities, among other services.

It also needs a kitchen area, parking within easy walking distance, access to public transport and a lease no longer than two years. The maximum budget is £11,000 a year.

Mrs Foile is now calling on anyone with access to a suitable property to get in touch.

She said: "If there is a business or organisaiton out there that could home us it would be terrific.

"We are working with the most vulnerable people in society, including elderly people that don't have their own families.

"If a business came forward they would be giving an awful lot to their community."

A council spokesperson confirmed that the lease would not be renewed.

They said: "Although the Council will not be utilising the space available at Homefield until later this year (at the earliest), the Council is unable to provide VAEF with a temporary Licence to continue their use of Homefield House, as by Law, they would gain tenant’s rights.

"We have been very proactive in supporting VAEF with finding alternative accommodation and have provided a range of options we feel suitable for their needs. This includes free use of space at council buildings in Epping and Chigwell; the opportunity to rent premises in Waltham Abbey at the same cost as they currently pay and made arrangements for VAEF to meet with Fire colleagues in respect of potential collaboration within Fire Service buildings.

"The Council is providing a range of IT support to VAEF to assist them in mobile working, including around 16 laptops."

If you can help call 01992 564256 or email jfoile@vaef.org.uk