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All night vigil for our day centres

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:48 01 July 2010

Stacey McLelland pictured during her all night vigil outside the rooms.

Stacey McLelland pictured during her all night vigil outside the rooms.

Sarah Hall

This is how much the day centres mean to us.

This is how much the day centres mean to us.

That was the message today after an all-night vigil took place outside a Norwich day centre threatened with closure, ahead of a crunch meeting which will help determine its fate.

Student Stacey McClelland slept outside the Silver Rooms last night and was due to go to County Hall today to take part in demonstrations opposing its closure.

All day yesterday campaigners gathered outside the day centre, in Silver Road, to continue to protest over plans which will see it shut, along with the Essex Rooms, off Unthank Road.

Miss McClelland, 29, a student at the Norwich University College of the Arts, who lives at Gertrude Road, decided to bed down outside the centre to help get the message across that the centres are too precious to lose.

She spent the night in a tent which was put up on shale outside the centre and said: “They are planning to close the Silver Rooms and we wanted to bring it to everyone's attention so we came up with the idea of a vigil because it highlights the issue and hopefully might impact the final decision.

“The elederly don't need to be moved about into all these other day centres. They're settled where they are now. I felt as a community member I needed to help out and do what I had to. I hope that it works or at least makes them think about it.”

Georgina Moles, from the friends of the Silver Rooms and Norwich and District Carer's Forum, said the community had been hugely supportive of the vigil.

She said: “There were lots of people walking past yesterday and we had lots of people signing our petition. I would say 99pc of them were behind us and signed it.

“That's a remarkable amount and people were saying what a pity it would be if it closed. It really is a part of the community.

“We just wanted to have the vigil to show how important the centre is ahead of the meeting today and to demonstrate what it means to people.”

The much-loved county council-run day centres were suggested for closure last October, but, in the wake of anger from the pensioners who use them and their families, Norfolk County Council agreed to carry out consultation.

But, following that consultation, the county council still thinks the centres should shut. However, council bosses want the centres to close gradually and aim to form a partnership with Age Concern Norwich and Norwich City Council to ensure alternative services are provided to the pensioners who use them.

The county council said the partnership would allow friendship groups to stay together in other locations - such as in housing with care schemes.

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, said: “We are committed to improving day services and widening the choice that people have, but we must make the best use of the council's resources in tough financial times.

“The consultation on the Essex and Silver Rooms showed us that what mattered to people was friendship, inclusion and care - not the buildings themselves.

“The new proposals allow us to keep to our policy of specialising council services for dementia and re-ablement, but also develop better replacement services in collaboration with our partners.

“Delivering more choice and better quality services will mean some changes are needed to update services and make them more sustainable.”

Norwich's two MPs - Conservative Chloe Smith in Norwich North and Liberal Democrat Simon Wright in Norwich South - met ouncil bosses on Friday to discuss the plans.

The pair said they had been reassured by the proposals that groups of pensioners would not be broken up and that the day centres would not shut until alternatives were in place.

But campaigners for the two day centres, who have been featured in the Evening News's Fight For Our Day Centres articles have not given up the fight for survival.

They were today set to demonstrate at County Hall when the adult social services overview and scrutiny panel meets on Wednesday to agree the latest proposals, although the final decision will rest with the county council cabinet next month.

Stephen Little, Green county councillor for Town Close division and one of the Friends of the Essex Rooms, said: “The people in the day centres have a great attachment to them and are going to make the case for why they should stay open as best we can.”

To find out what happened at today's meeting log on to www.eveningnews24.co.uk. For more reaction and analysis on the decision buy tomorrow's Evening News.

What do you think of the plans to close the centres? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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