Axe fears over South Tyneside dementia centre

ANGRY campaigners have launched a fight to save a South Tyneside centre caring for dozens of people with dementia.

Shocked families fear Connolly House, in Reynolds Avenue, Whiteleas, South Shields, could be axed as part of a council cost-cutting exercise.

But members of the newly-formed Friends of Connolly House say the borough’s only dementia care and respite centre provides a second-to-none service, including highly qualified and caring staff, who have been classed as “absolutely brilliant” by campaigners.

There are fears for the future of 50 full and part-time staff employed at the unit.

Group spokesman Jim Farthing said: “There is unanimous support among those with relatives in Connolly House to fight closure.

“Closure would not only affect the current clients, but all those who will need the services of Connolly House in years to come.

“This would impact on people across the borough.

“It’s fair to say that people are disgusted with the council, for even considering closing this excellent home, where there is also a waiting list.”

Connolly House was highly rated by inspectors in a recent Care Quality Commission report, and campaigners stress it is cost-effective and highly respected, by both professionals and families, despite the borough council being criticised for its overall adult social care services.

Action group members say savings could be made with the tendering process for the unit and are looking into ways of making Connolly House self-financing.

Campaigners say “huge savings” could be made on food and cleaning bills alone, quite apart from maintenance contracts.

A petition is being launched this week against closure, and campaigners plan to press councillors and South Shields MP David Miliband for support.

Coun Ernest Gibson, a Labour member for Whiteleas, has praised the home for the care it provided to his late father, Ernest, who died recently.

He told the Gazette: “Connolly House is the only council-owned Alzheimer’s and dementia unit in the borough, and it does an amazing job.”

Union leaders have also pledged to fight what they see as phased closure plans for Connolly House and Gerald House, both South Shields, and Beech Street, Jarrow.

Merv Butler, South Tyneside branch secretary of public sector union Unison, claims South Tyneside Council is looking to save £633,00 this year by reorganising care homes and transferring elderly people and those with dementia to the private sector.

But the borough council has stressed that no decision on the homes’ futures will be made until the conclusion of a consultation process with all stakeholders, including the families of residents.