Norwich day centre closures questioned

Shaun LowthorpeQuestions have been raised about the consultation process being used to gauge the views of older people using three Norfolk day centres facing the axe.Shaun Lowthorpe

Questions have been raised about the consultation process being used to gauge the views of older people using three Norfolk day centres facing the axe.

Norfolk County Council is proposing to shut the Essex Rooms and Silver Rooms, both in Norwich and Hempnall Mill, near Long Stratton, as part of plans to revamp adult social care and switch the focus on specialist provision for people with dementia.

But the plans have sparked uproar among some users and a campaign to fight the closure plans.

Members of the council's adult social services overview and scrutiny panel yesterday sought assurances about how the proposed 12-week consultation is being handled.

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Thetford East councillor Marion Chapman-Allen said she wanted reassurances that people would have the chance to say what they really think about the plans.

She also wanted to know if the responses would be independently verified by Age Concern to make sure they were happy with the responses.

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'Can you reassure me that the consultation is being done on a one-to-one basis and not over the telephone and people won't be led to give certain answers as opposed to what they really genuinely feel,' she said.

Long Stratton councillor Alison Thomas, whose area covers Hempnall Mill, said councillors could play a key role in explaining the changes and she had already met people to talk it through.

James Bullion, assistant director of community care, said the consultation would be done using a range of processes including using independent teams to interview people and panels to gauge the opinions of stakeholders and the voluntary sector.

All four political parties at Norwich City Council have already backed a motion put forward by the Green party opposing proposals the county council's plans to close the Essex Rooms and the Silver Rooms in the city.

The county council insists the proposals are not motivated by a desire to save money but are part of a switch in policy prompted by the government's personalisation agenda which will see council-run day services focus on people with dementia and what are known as re-ablement services where people can learn the skills they need to live independently. The council says the problem with the Silver Rooms and the Essex Rooms are that the buildings are not fit for that purpose and it would not be cost effective to bring them up to scratch.

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