Show us you care - plea from Silver Rooms pensioners

Dan GrimmerCampaigners who want to take over the running of a day centre for pensioners facing closure have made an emotional appeal to the whole community to support its bid to keep the much-loved venue open.Dan Grimmer

Campaigners who want to take over the running of a day centre for pensioners facing closure have made an emotional appeal to the whole community to support its bid to keep the much-loved venue open.

The Silver Rooms in Norwich is to be gradually closed after a decision made by Norfolk County Council last week, but the door has been left open for a community group to take it over.

A group called The Friends of the Silver Rooms has been working with the pensioners and wants the opportunity to keep it open for them and for other community groups.

They have commissioned a business plan and are developing a constitution for discussion to form a trust so the rooms can be kept open - but the group needs to know the community is behind them.

They have organised a public meeting to take place in a month's time and said the strength of support shown at that meeting from the community could determine whether the Silver Rooms, in Silver Road in the north city, has a future.

Georgina Moles, from the Friends of the Silver Rooms, said: 'It's time for us to come out fighting now. We are going to centre the meeting around our plan to keep the centre open.

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'It will focus on the business plan and what sort of organisation we are aiming to form, whether it's a charity or a co-operative. We are also planning to elect a proper committee to work towards that.

'We are hoping the community will show its support and that we might be able to get tradespeople to come forward who could help us with our plans for the centres.

'We have a meeting with the county council on Tuesday, where we hope to find out more about what sort of partnership we might be involved with.'

Hilda Bullen, 81, from Wodehouse Street, said the most important thing to her was staying with the friends she had met at the Silver Rooms.

'I've used it for seven and a half years,' she said. 'We have to know what will happen to us if it is going to close.

'The people are the most important thing.'

Norfolk County Council revealed last October that it wanted to close the Silver Rooms, along with the Essex Rooms in Essex Street and to axe a service provided at Hempnall Mill.

The centres are owned and run by the county council, but the closure was mooted because of a shake-up in the way County Hall provides care to people eligible for social services care.

The council wants to focus its in-house services on care for people with dementia and for people with re-ablement needs - such as people getting back into independent living after spells in hospital.

But County Hall says the Silver Rooms and the Essex Rooms are not suitable for those purposes, so need to close, although the Hempnall Mill day service will continue.

However, the council has agreed to continue providing services to the pensioners at the Silver and Essex Rooms and has pledged to keep them together in 'friendship groups' in alternative venues.

A partnership has been set up, also involving Age Concern Norwich and Norwich City Council, which will look to provide alternative care at sheltered housing and housing with care complexes.

But the council also agreed the new partnership could retain the option of keeping the rooms open as community-based services if sufficient resources and demand is there - and the Friends of the Silver Rooms hope the support at the public meeting will demonstrate the appetite to keep it going is there.

The Evening News has featured the attempts of the pensioners and campaigners to save their centre through our Fight For Our Day Centres articles.

Pensioners have protested in the city's streets, collecting petitions calling for their centre to be saved and have spoken out at council meetings where the issue has been discussed.

There have been two packed public meetings organised by the Norwich Carers' Forum, while an all-night vigil was held outside the Silver Rooms, when a student stayed in a tent all night to highlight that the centre's future was at stake.

The meeting will take place at Christchurch Church Hall in Magdalen Road, Norwich, at 7.30pm on Thursday, July 22.

• Do you think the Silver Rooms should be saved? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email