WHY do we treat our elderly and vulnerable in South Tyneside with such disrespect?
That was the question asked by shoppers we approached in South Shields.
It is over a year since South Tyneside Council launched a consultation over the future of day care services.
The decision was taken to close a number of community bases in favour of what was described as a more flexible approach.
That policy means that within weeks, centres for the elderly such as those in Wilfred Street in Boldon Colliery and Hampden Street in South Shields will close, with service users moving to Hebburn’s Father James Walsh Day Centre.
Service users at both Ocean Road Community Centre and Cleadon Park Health Centre have also been moved on into a variety of other venues.
The long-term aim is for the creation of a permanent community hub at the former Wouldhave House site in Market Place, South Shields.
From there, staff will direct day centre users to facilities within the community that best suit their individual needs.
The loss of physical bases, regarded by some users as homes away from home, that has angered many.
And the majority of those the Gazette questioned about the move believe the change of direction is merely another cost-cutting exercise.
Retired forklift driver William Fox, 65, of Whitburn, said: “We should be protecting our old people.
“They have worked all their lives, and the council just doesn’t care about them.
“For many, these centres are the only chance they have to get out and meet other people, and they develop bonds and friendships.
“When you close these centres, those bonds are lost, and people can become isolated.”
Shop worker Jay Carter, 37, said: “It’s all about saving money and cost-cutting, and it’s the old and vulnerable who are being targeted.
“The council seems to be able to find the money when it needs to, for things like the South Tyneside Summer Festival. The elderly deserve more respect.”
Maricicia Pop, 51, a private-sector care worker, of South Shields, said: “I have noticed in England that the system works against people who have worked all their lives.
“They are the ones who end up having to pay for their care, while people on benefits get it free. I think that is very unfair.”
Jen English, 66, of Dene Terrace, South Shields, said the elderly will feel they have been left abandoned because of the council’s approach.
She said: “The council is breaking up communities by closing these centres.
“They become like families, and it is part of their routine.
“By taking that away, people will feel threatened and abandoned. It’s very wrong.”
Welder Ronnie Dobson, 57, of Boldon, did express some sympathy for the council, however.
He said: “It’s not the local authority’s fault. It is having to cut its budget left, right and centre.
“The real culprit is the Government, which has slashed the council’s budgets. That means very difficult decisions are having to be made.”
Borough carer Barry Miller, 41, believes the vulnerable members of society should be protected.
“They need to be treated with dignity,” he said.