STAFFORDSHIRE County Council is asking people for their views of services provided for older people at day centres in Cheadle as part of a wider review of such sites in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The county council claims that since 2010 attendance has fallen at Cheadle by more than a third, as more older people opt for flexible, tailored support in the community, rather than traditional centre based support.
It says Cheadle Day Centre has spaces for 25, but typically only nine attend. The number of days attended varies from person to person.
The county council is asking families and carers for their views on the day centres for older people as part of public consultation which started on Monday, August 12, and lasts for 28 days.
The consultation is separate to an additional county council consultation on centres for people with learning disabilities in the county which started on Monday, August 19.
Cheadle's town mayor councillor Ian Plant met with representatives of the county council, along with users, relatives and carers, at Cheadle Day Centre in Charles Street on Thursday, August 8, to discuss the review and plans for its future ahead of the consultation.
He said: “We put questions to the representatives and they gave us a package containing details about the consultation and review, but said they didn't realise it would be a question and answer session.
“What did they expect; you cantt just tell people all these things leading to concerns that it might be closing and not expect them to want to ask questions.
“I asked what happens if these people don’t want it to shut, and will they be listened to? “Apparently they haven’t had any referrals for two years.
“I asked about that and they admitted it, so they must have known they were looking to close it, and now they're saying it’s not fit for purpose.
“It was fit for purpose before the county council took it over; if it isn’t now it’s because they don't spend any money to improve things and update them, they just sell them off.
“They have given us a questionnaire and booklet with ‘Day Opportunities in the Staffordshire Moorlands’ and only about six are in Cheadle.
“You’ve got to go outside Cheadle all the time to do anything and if you’re an old age pensioner it’s not that easy.
“Are they really going to find alternative activities for every single person who uses these centres every day for 50 weeks of the year – probably not.
“Where’s the money going to come from, how much on average will these people get and how long will the money be there for – they are giving people money in one hand and taking it off them in another.
“I can see their side. It’s Government related and they've got to cut back.
“But they\ve known about this for some time and if these centres go it only leaves Homelink, and they’re stopping subsidising that.
“Weaver House at Cheadle Hospital is empty now, after the NHS shut that day ward; why can't they go there instead.
“It’s absolutely disgusting – these centres provide much needed respite for families, as well as providing something to do for the users, who often don't have anyone else and are lonely.
“It’s going to put pressure on families who will be mithering constantly about what’s going to happen to their relatives.
“The staff are dumbfounded as well; they see the smiles on these people's faces every day.
“I have invited the county council to discuss this with the full town council, as well as what's happening with Lightwood and Newlands.” Robbie Marshall, Staffordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "This is a consultation and we want to hear people's views about the day centres for older people and will be working closely with day centre users, carers and staff over the coming weeks.
"As a county council we are absolutely committed to offering older people more choice, more flexibility and more control over the support they receive. We want to look beyond simply providing the traditional day centre setting and really look on an individual basis how we can help each and every older person enjoy a more fulfilling and independent life.
"The fact that attendance has fallen so dramatically is a clear indication that more and more older people are choosing to opt for more personalised care in the community and we have to question whether supporting older members in half-empty, ageing facilities really is acceptable in 2013."