My fears for day centre ‘lifeline’
15:56 12 February 2014
Families who rely on the service say there’s ‘nothing quite like it’.
FAMILIES of elderly and disabled people who use day centres say a lifeline would be lost if the centres were to close.
Eleven in North Devon and Torridge are facing the axe under cost-cutting proposals announced by Devon County Council – services used by around 300 people.
The daughter of one 83-year-old woman who has attended the Springfield Day Centre in Bideford twice a week for two years told the Gazette there is ‘nowhere else quite like it in the community’.
Jonquil Holton, 58, said: “My mum has dementia but Springfield has been her lifeline.
“The staff are experienced in supporting her and the other clients to retain their skills, stimulate their memory with appropriate games and activities, and support her to remain in her own home.
“Apart from the carer’s daily visit, it is her only social contact.”
Her mum, Mary May-Miller, said: “Most of the time I just sit here and look out the window so it’s a nice place to go.
“They come out and collect me in a bus and drop me off afterwards.”
In Barnstaple, Oakwell, Rosebank, Oasis, Silverhill, Tarka, and Greenfields are all earmarked for closure 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 .
Springfield provides a range of social activities for 79 people aged 65 to 100. Of those, 39 are described as having ‘high level’ needs and 40 have ‘low level’ needs.
Activities vary from singing and cookery to chair-based exercise.
Mrs Holton said staff told service users at Springfield of the proposals this week.
“I understand that there were a lot of tears and everyone was upset – including the staff because they care very much for the people who go there,” she said.
“There is a feeling that although the consultation has not been completed, the decision has already been made.
“Staff are devastated – not just for themselves but for the people they look after.”
The county council, which must save £110million over the next four years due to Government cuts, says it will not close the centres until clients have access to alternative support. It says it will look to the private and voluntary sector to bridge the gap.
But Mrs Holton said she had never been able to find anything else quite like Springfield in the community.
“The council says it will be able to offer a like-for-like service but I’m not sure how they are going to do it because they are closing day centres everywhere,” she said.
“All the way along the staff have been instrumental in helping Mum – I’m not sure that voluntary services can fulfil the role as adequately as professional, trained staff can.”
The council said it had seen a 66 per cent drop in the numbers of people attending its day centres since 2005, claiming more people were choosing to pursue other hobbies and interests during the day, or attend activities such as memory cafés rather than attend council day centres.
But Mrs Holton blamed the council for the lack of referrals: “They say that there have not been many referrals but I think that’s deliberate because they are not offering the service to people. I can’t believe there are only 39 people in Bideford who are in this boat.
“If it was a proper business they would advertise it. I’m sure there are many others who haven’t found their relatives a place at a day centre because they haven’t been offered one.”
County councillor 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.
“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.”
Mrs Holton said the day centre had become a ‘lifeline’.
“With dementia you lose a lot of your friends from the life you had before. But Mum has made new friends at Springfield .
“Her dementia will only get worse but I know that she has got some kind of social life going there.
“It can be quite hard getting old, but with all the services they are taking away, what’s going to be left for them or any of us when we get older?”