FOUR local care centres for the disabled, elderly and mentally ill will be shut down under a cost-cutting drive greeted with dismay yesterday.
Ashfield appears to be the area heaviest hit by Nottinghamshire County Council’s ‘modernisation programme’.
The proposals see Sutton’s Rokerfield, Full Bloom and New Outlook day care centres close, along with Selston Day Care Centre.
The authority says the closures will ultimately provide a better service, but one district councillor branded the proposals ‘cruel and evil’.
Sutton’s Rokerfield Centre, providing support to people with mental health problems, is on the list despite an impassioned public campaign.
The cull also means four out of nine county centres earmarked to shut are in Sutton and Selston, with one more, Spring Street in Hucknall, also within Ashfield District.
Instead their services will be provided at re-vamped multi-purpose centres such as Willow Wood, on Sheepwash Lane, Sutton.
Selston’s district councillor Gail Turner said the loss of the centre, within the site of Selston Arts and Community College, would deprive the community of a ‘much-loved’ hub.
“Ashfield seems to be taking a hit and I think this is cruel and evil,” she said.
“The centre is for vulnerable elderly people and if the county council thinks it’s ok to just transport them somewhere else then it’s not.”
But County Hall leaders said the plan would provide a more modern service.
Coun Kevin Rostance, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “If we don’t make these savings from some areas we are faced with making them in other areas. We’ve only got so much money to spend.”
The council has now completed a consultation on the overhaul, and will make a decision on the final plans on 30th June.
Users of the services and their families said the closure plans were ‘ridiculous’.
Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero has previously backed calls to keep the Mansfield Road Rokerfield Centre open after meeting its users.
She said she would be raising the issue the Parliament.
“My first priority is to seek assurances that the quality of care will remain the same,” she said.
“I’ll be writing to Coun Rostance to ask what practical implications this will have and get reassurances that service users have been listened to and care standards will not fall.”
The Full Bloom centre, on Pinxton Lane, provides support for those with learning disabilities while New Outlook, on Kirkby Road, provides a service for those with physical disabilities.
Added Coun Rostance: “Although services will be provided in fewer buildings we believe both the services and the buildings will be better.
“We’re entering a new era in social care where increasing demand and limited resources will mean all councils have to do what they can to support more people to live independently, increasingly using personal budgets to give people the opportunity to control their own care.”
All those using the threatened centres will be offered an alternative day service at no extra cost, the council says, with transport provided.
While the closures will save £5m a year, £4m is being invested in 12 other county centres to provide more modern shared-use facilities.
Willow Wood has already been converted and acted as a pilot for the scheme, catering for users of centres including Dallas Street, Mansfield, which shut six months ago.
Added Coun Rostance: “Rokerfield has a lot of public support and the people who attend there will be offered the chance to attend Willow Wood.
“The risks are considerable when dealing with mental health and we’ve tried to speak to staff and service users.
“Willow Wood has been successful; people’s opinions can change dramatically.”
Nottinghamshire County Council is battling to save £187m over four years in a climate of public spending cuts organised by the Government.
A council spokesman was unable to provide usage figures for each service, but added while more Ashfield services face possible closure than in other districts, the area had more services, which are operating at ‘well below capacity’ and were on average underused by 60 per cent.