By Linda Tanner, Education Correspondent
FAMILIES have urged Bristol City Council to rethink any plans to shut day centres and old people’s homes.
The authority is looking at closures as a way of releasing up to £20 million to give elderly people and those with learning difficulties more independence.
But carers of vulnerable people say the day centres are a lifeline and the homes provide much-needed accommodation for older people, particularly those with dementia.
Firm proposals will be revealed in September but the cabinet councillor in charge of care, Dr Jon Rogers, began outlining some possible measures earlier in the summer.
He is looking at closing ten homes for the elderly: Bowmead, Brentry, Broomhill, Hayleigh, Maesknoll and St Peter’s, plus Coombe, Rockwell, Wellhay and Greville, which are for elderly people with dementia.
The council says these are no longer fit for purpose, as the rooms are too small and do not have en-suite facilities
Also under threat are day-care services including Lanercost, Lawrence Link, St George, Shire Link, Dover Court, North Bristol Drop In, South Bristol Drop In and New Horizons, as well as other day care services for people with dementia.
Ivor Needs, whose 36-year-old brain-damaged son Matthew attends St George day centre five days a week, said he could not cope without that care.
“Matthew enjoys it down there. Since he has been going there, he has come on in leaps and bounds,” said 78-year-old Mr Needs, from St George.
“The more education he can have, the better I shall be pleased. It will put him in a better state for when I am not around. I fear for the future for him.”
Mary Taylor, 77, from Stoke Bishop, is similarly concerned about her 49-year-old daughter Jane, who has learning difficulties.
“She goes to Shire Link three days a week and enjoys being part of a group of people. The staff there are great and they take them out on trips.
“It is so wrong to close these centres. I don’t think the council have thought it through. Surely they can save money on other things so that the elderly and those with learning difficulties can have a little comfort?” Mrs Thomas said.
Verena Edgeworth, from Shirehampton, is protesting about the possibility of the closure of old people’s homes, including Rockwell, where her 81-year-old mother lives.
She said: “Why are en-suites considered essential by the council when so many elderly people are either incontintent or bedridden?”
Mrs Edgeworth said she had been looking for a nursing home for when her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, needs extra care but had found that many privately-run homes charged “top-up” fees.
All three have written to Dr Rogers to express their opposition to home and day centre closures.
Dr Rogers, a GP, has said that Bristol spends far more of its budget on residential homes than other cities. He wants to encourage a dialogue on the best ways of providing care before the council comes up with proposals.
In a letter to Mr Needs, he said this approach was partly prompted by the response of carers and their charges to the closure of the Bush day centre.
“I am not saying that we will close any or all of our day centres, but we do need to discuss whether the services we are providing are the best possible. The evidence from the closure of the Bush day centre suggests that of the 120 people originally attending, only 20 are now attending a day centre.
“I have met many previous attendees and their feedback is that their new person centred support has significantly improved their quality of life,” he sad.