THREE day centres are poised for the axe as part of a shake-up of services for the elderly and disabled in South Tyneside, it emerged today.
The care bases at The Lonnen and Hampden Street in South Shields, and Wilfred Street in Boldon Colliery have traditionally been used as outlets for everything from tea dances and bingo to hot meals and Tai Chi.
South Tyneside Council says the centres are under-used and aims to develop a new model of service.
It now proposes to close the three centres and provide a central ‘hub’ at the new South Shields Central Library, when it is re-located, possibly to the current site of Wouldhave House.
It plans this new building will enable residents to access a wide range of support, information and advice.
The move was condemned as “a retrograde step” by Coun George Elsom, opposition leader on the council.
The Independent councillor said he had not been informed of the proposal for the Lonnen centre, which is in his Cleadon Park ward.
He said: “This is appalling and a retrograde step. I believe this centre has been deliberately run down with the intention of closing it. I represent the ward and have not been told anything about this.
“The centre has been used by people with special needs for some time, but only during the day.
“There has been no attempt to utilise it at night.
“There are loads of other ways the council could save money, rather than closing a centre which should be at the hub of the community.”
The council, which is looking to make savings of £20m to its budget this financial year, and an estimated £12m in 2013/14, says about 420 people use day services in the borough and more than 200 people took part in consultations on the issue.
This consultation began in May when people was asked their views on the provision of day services and activities available for older people and those with disabilities.
The results of these talks and the proposals are being shared with service users today.
The council envisages that hub staff would help users to personalise their activities according to their needs, including access to supported employment, adult and community learning, cultural services and specialist day care, such as dementia care.
The council says the shake-up will ensure facilities are of a higher quality and there is better co-ordination of activities and transport arrangements.
Previously, attendance at some buildings was, it says, as low as 40 per cent.
Coun Emma Lewell-Buck, the council’s lead member for adult social care and support services, said: “This has been an excellent opportunity for service users and staff to help shape the future of day services and ensure their needs are met.
“The new model is based on what people have told us they want, which is more choice, more variety, the chance to be independent and get involved in community-based activities.
“We are reducing the number of buildings but there will be no loss of service and there will be a better quality of facilities.
“We are continuing provision to those people who are eligible, and we want to those services to be of the best possible quality and offer value for money.”
The recommendations will be considered at a meeting of the council’s decision-making cabinet next month.
If the proposal is given the go-ahead, the project would begin to take shape in the new year.
Until a new library is built, an interim site would be used to house the community hub.