Norwich OAPs protest against day centre closure plans

Sarah HallPensioners fighting tooth and nail to save two Norwich day centres from the axe staged a protest in the city centre to deliver an emotive message to council bosses - 'Don't take away our lifelines'.Sarah Hall

Pensioners fighting tooth and nail to save two Norwich day centres from the axe staged a protest in the city centre to deliver an emotive message to council bosses - 'Don't take away our lifelines'.

The clock is ticking on a decision which could see the Essex and Silver Rooms closed, but the elderly people who use them are not prepared to give up without a fight. They demonstrated on the steps of City Hall yesterday to show Norfolk County Council how vital the centres are to their lives - and to gather more signatures to add to a petition already signed by thousands of supporters.

Conservative-controlled County Hall revealed last year that it wanted to close the county council-run centres because of a massive shake-up in the way care is provided.

The county council says within 15 years there will be a 62pc increase in the number of people in Norfolk with dementia, rising from 12,714 in 2008 to 20,621 by 2025. They say that means they have to change their focus on tackling the surge in dementia and, therefore, the care homes and day services it runs will change as a result.

Council officials say the Essex and Silver Rooms are not suitable to be converted to that use so have proposed their closure - to the fury of pensioners who use them, as reported in the Evening News's Fight For Our Day Centres stories.

One of the protesting pensioners at yesterday's demonstration was Greta Holmes, 79, from Magdalen Road, who first started attending the Silver Rooms with her husband Leslie about eight years ago.

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She said: "I took my husband there and he had Alzheimer's disease and dementia. He loved it there. After he died I didn't think I could face going back, but the first thing they said when I got there was that if I needed to cry, that was okay. The staff there were wonderful to me and I have such good memories of how my husband enjoyed it there. It is a place which has become like a memorial to him for me. It means so much to me. He was a wonderful man and a wonderful father."

The pensioners were joined by councillors who have been fighting to stop the centres being shut. Former MP Ian Gibson lent his support, along with John Cook, Labour's candidate for the Norwich North seat, and Adrian Ramsay, who is hoping to win Norwich South for the Green Party.

Stephen Little, who represents Town Close ward for the Greens on the city and county council, said: "The decision is due to be made in June and we have to let the county council know that the support to keep the centres open remains as strong as ever."

Julie Brociek-Coulton, Labour city councillor for Sewell ward, and secretary of the Friends of the Silver Rooms group, said: "The rooms should not be closed. We are hoping the county council realises the elderly people need this facility."

The pensioners were at City Hall because the county council was holding a drop-in session there about the development of a housing and community support strategy, although that is separate from the proposal to shut the centres.

Councillor David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, has said whatever the outcome, no-one will be left without a service and the cabinet will only consider proposals which fully reflect the comments made during the consultation.

Harold Bodmer, director of Norfolk Adult Social Services, said: "Now that our consultation has finished, the feedback we have received will be analysed by an independent marketing and research company. We will take careful account of what's been said and feed people's views into our detailed proposals, which will go to cabinet for a final decision in June."

�> What do you think of proposals to close the day centres? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.