THE chairman of South Tyneside’s ‘Older People’s Parliament’ has accused the council of failing to meet the needs of its vulnerable citizens by axing borough day centres.
The local authority has come under fire over the imminent closure of centres at Wilfred Street, Boldon Colliery, and Hampden Street in South Shields, with services moving to the Father James Walsh Centre in Hebburn.
A service at Gainsborough Avenue at Whiteleas, South Shields, is also being relocated.
And groups based at Ocean Road Community Centre and Cleadon Park health centre, both South Shields, have also been moved out.
The plans are all part of a major shake-up in daycare services, which the council says represents a more ‘flexible’ approach, reducing the number of physical bases and directing service users to activities which “best suit their needs”.
But it’s “completely the wrong approach”, according to Greenwell Jewitt, the chairman of older people’s group, Forum 50.
Mr Jewitt, who is stepping down from his role later this month, said: “The council says it is not cutting frontline services but it’s perfectly clear that this is exactly what it is doing.
“These day centres are a way of life for these people. They get them out of the house and into an environment in which they feel safe.
“It is the duty of a good society, irrespective of money concerns, to look after its most vulnerable and those in need, and this council is failing to do that.
“I understand that these are difficult financial times, but we can’t just keep cutting and cutting away at services.
“Look at Queen’s Road Day Centre, which was flattened despite overwhelming opposition.
“It was thriving and residents even offered to pay more rent.
“It didn’t help – the council was determined to get rid of it.”
Mr Jewitt, from Boldon Colliery, believes there are easier ways to save money.
He added: “We said, over and over again, that we should cut the number of borough councillors from 54 to 36.
“We are a small borough of circa-150,000 residents.
“Why do we need three councillors per ward?”
South Tyneside Council has pledged that individuals needing support will receive it.
A spokesman said: “We understand that change can be unsettling for people, but we will continue to work closely with individuals to make the moves as smooth as possible.”