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Breaking news: North Devon day centres set to close

PUBLISHED: 16:29 04 February 2014 | UPDATED: 16:50 04 February 2014

Day centres for the elderly and disabled face the axe.

Day centres for the elderly and disabled face the axe.

Archant

Centres for the elderly and disabled face the axe under money-saving proposals announced by Devon County Council.

DAY centres for the elderly and disabled across North Devon and Torridge are facing the axe under proposals announced by Devon County Council.

Eleven – including six in Barnstaple, two in Bideford, one in South Molton, one in Ilfracombe and one in Torrington – are earmarked for closure, services used by around 300 people.

In Barnstaple, Oakwell; Rosebank; Oasis; Silverhill; Tarka; and Greenfields will shut subject to consultation.

Springfield and Quayside in Bideford will go, as will Beech House in South Molton; Burrow House in Ilfracombe and a hub at the Plough in Torrington.

The only day centre to be retained under the proposals is Woodland Vale in Torrington.

John Freeman, who has been using the Oasis Day Centre in Barnstaple twice a week for the last 10 years, said he was shocked to receive a letter outlining the proposals earlier today (Tuesday).

“I just can’t understand it – it’s heartbreaking,” said Mr Freeman, 45.

“I use the centre to meet friends and socialise and take part in activities like arts and crafts – I’m going to really miss it.

“There are some extremely vulnerable people in North Devon – how can they expect to be just to be cut loose like that?

“We don’t know when it’s going to close. They say it’s a consultation but it’s going to happen – the staff have already been issued with redundancy notices.”

The council says it will not close the centres until it is assured clients have access to alternative support.

But North Devon Councillor Jasmine Chesters, who once fought to keep the Mariners Day Centre open in Braunton, said day centres helped people to stay in their homes for as long as is practical.

“I am extremely distressed to hear this news, so I don’t know how those who use the service and those who work there must feel,” she said.

“I fought to keep the Mariners Day Centre open but when it was closed, it meant that clients from around the area were sent many miles by bus to Rosebank.

“Now it looks like they are going to lose that facility also. Where are these people and their helpers, who are reliant on the service, going to go now?

“It is all very well trying to save money but these are vulnerable people. Our ageing population needs help. “All day centres help them stay in their homes for as long as is practical. Please think again, whoever made this decision.”

Gazette reader Heather Leworthy got in touch to say: “These places are a lifeline for many of the elderly clients who go there; for some it’s the only communication they have.

“They often get left in their own homes for hours on end without seeing anyone other then a carer – it’s disgusting, I just can’t believe that they could do this.”

‘No change to entitlement’

However the Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for adult social care, Cllr Stuart Barker said that there would be no change to people’s entitlement, and that everyone eligible for Council support would continue to receive it.

“We are not reducing or cutting support to people with eligible needs,” he said.

“Everyone eligible will receive support, whether they’ve arranged it themselves with their Direct Payment, or they choose to attend a day centre.

“The question is about whether we continue providing day services in our day centres, or whether we make more use of the many excellent private and voluntary sector day services that are located near ours.

“With centre costs rising with fewer people attending, we must be realistic.

“We should be prepared to keep centres in places where there is demand and insufficient alternative, but where there are good private or voluntary sector-run alternatives, we should consider using them more.

“At the same time, we want to extend our services to provide a broader range of assistance to people who are not eligible for council-funded care, as well as support to those who are.

“We must acknowledge the growing numbers of people choosing to do other things with their Direct Payments, and work with the private and voluntary sector in communities to maximise opportunities for people to do what they want.”

Falling numbers and huge savings

The county council said it had seen a 66 per cent drop in the numbers of people attending its day centres since 2005.

It claimed more people were choosing to pursue other hobbies and interests during the day, or attend activities such as memory cafes or luncheon clubs in preference to attending council day centres.

The authority must save £110million over the next four years because of cuts in Government funding.

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