Opposition To Closure Of Day Care Units

Opposition is growing to county council plans to close 14 day care units for the elderly across Suffolk including those in the Lowestoft and Waveney area. Union leaders have also launched a stinging attack on the proposals. The centres, including Blyford House and Stradbroke Court in Lowestoft and others in Waveney, could be shut and the pensioners who use them asked to attend new facilities under plans being considered by Suffolk County Council.

Jean Cunningham, a carer who lives in Pakefield, said many elderly people looked forward to visiting the centres. “The elderly people would be split up from the friends they have made. The county council are playing with people’s lives and some elderly people have been left confused and very upset about these proposals,” she said.

Margaret Davies, of Oulton Broad, said she was extremely concerned about the possible closure of Blyford House: “I attend the centre twice a week and this is a big help for my husband who is very disabled. It gives him a rest, as this is one of the only times that I am able to get out of our house as I am wheelchair-bound. “I enjoy attending the centre as I have made many friends there. I find it a relaxing place where I can sit and socialise as well as having my hair done. I find the staff very friendly and always willing to help.”

Public sector union Unison insisted that the search for cheaper ways of delivering care would leave vulnerable people isolated in their own homes. Opposition councillors said the changes were causing distress for older people. But the county council’s cabinet agreed that new consultations about the future of council centres would take place.

The move comes just months after a similar process was started for council-run residential care homes.

Rob Parker, a spokesman for Unison, said: “The truth is that alternative equivalent quality services do not exist that will meet the assessed needs of those requiring these services and that they will be put at risk of being left isolated within their own homes and their carers with no quality support to carry on caring.”

John Field told fellow county councillors at the meeting on Tuesday that suggesting change was enough to upset those who rely on day care services. “I am very concerned about the alarm and despondency we are creating,” he said. “The process seems intent on moving from council services they know and trust to independent provision they are clearly not happy about.”

Fellow councillor David Grutchfield added: “In talking to some older residents about what this might mean, I have seen people with tears running down their cheeks,” he said.

But Graham Newman, portfolio holder for adults and communities, said the council had to look for ways to save money. “Council-run places cost £35 per day, while places we buy from outside providers cost £24 per day,” he said.