Two Westminster day centres close over funding cuts

Two centres which offered lunch clubs and activities for older people in Westminster have closed due to a lack of funding.

Just a year after it re-opened following major refurbishment work, the Harris Centre in Lanark Road, Maida Vale, has shut.

Among its regular users was Westminster’s oldest resident May Brinckley, 106, of Fifth Avenue, Queen’s Park.

She unveiled a plaque to mark the official re-opening of the centre on her 105th birthday in May last year.

Age UK Westminster, the charity which runs the centre, announced it could also no longer afford to keep open its Covent Garden Community Hub in Odhams Walk.

This comes after Westminster Council completely withdrew funding for older people’s day centres across the borough at the end of July.

Instead, funding will be directed towards four new hubs in the most deprived parts of Westminster – Churchill ward, Westbourne ward, Church Street/Regent’s Park wards and Queen’s Park/Harrow Road wards – each offering more than 40 different activities for older people.

The hubs are expected to be up and running this month.

Benn Keaveney, chief executive of Age UK Westminster, said: “We have been subsidising both centres for quite some time but with such major cutbacks, we just could not afford to sustain it.

“I understand the council’s decision to withdraw funding but we’re disappointed.

“Some people at the Harris Centre had been going there for 20 years and they were obviously very distressed when they found out it was going to close, because they’ve built up friendships there.

“We’ve also had to lose some very experienced staff members.

“It’s a big hit for elderly people in Westminster.

“We did work to see if we could get other funding but because of the economic climate, we’ve been unsuccessful.”

The charity has kept council funding for its home support services, which help around 500 isolated older people.

Age UK Westminster will also continue to offer information and advice for older people, and run shops in the borough.

Councillor Daniel Astaire, Westminster Council’s head of adult services and health, said: “We are facing enormous pressures, with the increasing demand for care services and an increasing pressure on health and social care budgets.

“Drop-in services help to prevent deterioration and the need for intervention at a higher level.

“By redesigning the way we deliver such services we will ensure we are delivering a better and more efficient preventative care that continues to offer support to our most vulnerable residents.”