Vital OAP centres face the axe in Camden

11:38 15 December 2010

Age Concern Camden chief executive Gary Jones (right) with staff and pensioners at GreatCroft Resource Centre

Age Concern Camden chief executive Gary Jones (right) with staff and pensioners at GreatCroft Resource Centre

TONY GAY at tonephote@aol.com

TWO vital day centres for the borough’s most vulnerable pensioners are facing the axe – but the feisty OAPs are vowing not to let them go without a fight.

Camden Council is planning to close Great Croft Resource Centre in Cromer Street, King’s Cross, and Hill-Wood Resource Centre in Polygon Road, Somers Town, in a bid to save more than £500,000 a year.

The news has devastated the 200-plus pensioners for whom the centres are a lifeline.

One of the women spearheading the campaign is 91-year-old Rosie Ruse, a retired church worker who is at Great Croft nearly every day.

Mrs Ruse, of Cromer Street, King’s Cross, said: “If they closed this centre, they would be sending us all home to die. There would be nowhere else for us to go.

“We all live on our own. It isn’t like we have husbands to look after us. All our children have moved out of London. And there are prostitutes and druggies all around here, so we don’t feel safe going out.

“If I couldn’t come here, I would just go home and die. There would be nothing to live for any more.”

Camden Council currently pays old people’s charity Age Concern Camden a little over £500,000 a year to provide the two day centres, which between them lay on activities and lunches for around 250 OAPs.

The charity has now been told that the council is decommissioning the centres, together with a £50,000-a-year online shopping service.

Because of Government cutbacks, the council needs to save around £100million between 2011 and 2014.

The pensioners are begging council bosses to change their minds.

Retired nurse Benny Barrow, 80, who lives off Rochester Road, Camden Town, and goes to Hill-Wood every day, said: “My husband had a stroke and was confined to his four walls. He was getting into a depression. But I found this centre and they took care of him very well.

“He passed away in April and now the centre really helps me. If I didn’t have the centre, I would just be sitting at home and I would be very lonely and would miss my husband much more than I do now.”

Retired tailor Jeane Smith, 85, of Burton Street, Bloomsbury, who goes to Great Croft four days a week, added: “I lost my husband just over a year ago, so this is a lifeline for me. It gives me somewhere to go in the mornings. I do arts and crafts, knitting, singing, gardening – and I’ve got two artificial hips.”

While retired charity shop manager Pamela Whitehouse, 86, of Guilford Street, King’s Cross, who goes to Great Croft three times a week, said: “We are more than just upset. We are determined to do something about it. Most people are 80 years old and over. They would just be on their own without it.”

King’s Cross and Somers Town are among the most deprived parts of Camden Some of the users would end up having to go into care homes if the day centres closed.

Gary Jones, chief executive of Age Concern Camden, said: “We are surprised that a Labour council is cutting two centres in the poorest parts of the borough that cater for working class communities and Bangladeshi people. The cuts appear to focus disproportionately on the south of the borough. We are begging the council to think again.

“If the centres close, we will support users and encourage them to go elsewhere. But the council says they will focus on a smaller number of people with higher needs, so there won’t be space for everyone.”

Camden Council is only obliged to provide essential services for people with the most critical needs and is cutting back on its “discretionary” services. At present, it also pays for OAP day centres in Chalk Farm, West Hampstead and Hampstead.

A council spokeswoman said: “We have been forced to make some very difficult decisions about support we can provide in the future, and we are in the process of preparing letters to all our affected service providers.

“We understand the concerns of providers like Age Concern Camden and we will be working closely with them over the following months to support them to adapt to the new financial challenges, including access to other sources of funding.”

She added that the council would consult with residents on the proposals between January 10 and March 21 next year.

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