No Reprieve for Chiswick Day Centre
Chiswick elderly 'heartbroken' as doors shut next week
Elderly Chiswick residents-including war veterans and immigrants-have spoken of their heartbreak at seeing the Day Centre close at the end of the week.
"We'll not leave Chiswick- if they say we can go to somewhere else like Heston, it's no good. It's too far- we shall just sit at home alone all day" said Jean, who has been a regular three times a week for eighteen years. She started coming after her husband died and relies on the Centre for company and a hot meal as she has no children and lives alone. Her comments were echoed by her elderly friend Bob, who said if the Centre closes, he faces an uncertain and lonely future.
"My friends are here. I can't be getting buses somewhere else at my age.It's Chiswick or nowhere for me." he said.
Skip with discarded equipment outside the centre
World War II veteran George, whose wife died of dementia some years ago said the old people feel they have been made scapegoats by politicians.
"We worked hard all our lives and now because the politicians have made a mess of things, we have to suffer the cutbacks. There are things I could say that you couldn't print. That's how strongly I feel".
George, who was born in East London intended to go on the stage in his youth, but ended up as a tanker driver for an oil company. He saw service in Germany during the Second World War and married his childhood sweetheart before settling in Wimbledon. He now lives in Isleworth and has been a regular at the Day Centre for years, where he enjoys doing quizzes and puzzles with his friends. He does not relish the thought of travelling to another centre, he said.
Ainsley Godfrey emigrated from India fifty years ago and was attending an art class in the Day Centre when ChiswickW4 visited. He suffered a stroke which has affected his left side and is furious at the politicians for closing the centre.
" I don't feel I want to ever vote again. What are people going to do?" he said , recalling how he came to the UK as a young man from a town 200 miles from Calcutta. He joined his brother in London doing a variety of jobs, and studied by night until he gained accountancy qualifications . He married an Irishwoman and has two grown-up children. He said he realises that he is fortunate to have a family.
"Many of the people here live alone and will have nowhere to spend their days. It's terrible". he commented.
98-year old May said her children were now in their late 70s and her daughter was her full-time carer.
"They say they're going to give us somewhere else but I don't know where that will be. I prefer to stay here" she said, before tucking in a lunch of roast pork, potatoes and vegetables. The provision of hot food was a topic mentioned frequently. Most of the elderly people said they were reluctant to attend other day centres where they would not be given a hot meal, or only have a half-day session.
Jack, a full-time carer for his 90-year old mother was distressed as he spoke of the daily challenge of looking after his mother who suffers from dementia.
"I take her here four times a week and I have been looking after her for fourteen years- in the past five years, her dementia has worsened. We don't qualify for transport so I have to take her here myself which is difficult as she does not wake until 11.30 a.m. due to sleeping problems.
"This is my only respite, the few hours I get when my mother is at the centre. I am already exhausted. If I have to drive to Heston and back, it's no good to me. People say I should put her into a home but I cannot do that, she cannot speak English. I've worked hard all my life and paid taxes like everyone else. " he said.
Dozens of homeless people will also be deprived of a place to go for lunch and social contact when the Centre closes at the end of October. The Chiswick Churches Together Homeless lunch , which has been running for fourteen years, will also be forced to cancel .
Those attending pay £1 for a three- course lunch which is cooked and served by volunteers every fortnight at the Day Centre.
" The lunches are a crucial social contact for people who have social needs, some are homeless and some are lonely . It's difficult to see where we can find another appropriate venue as we cannot afford to pay rent and we have no money" commented the Chairman of the Homeless Lunch group, Mr. Simon Rodway.
The Friends of the Chiswick Day Centre have pledged to keep up the fight by seeking a judicial review of the decision to close the Centre which is due to close its doors on October 31st. Laura Sophie Ware, who heads the group campaigning against closure has appealed to the Council to allow the centre to stay open until after Christmas.
"The users of the centre go there because most of them don't have family, and the only friends they have are at the centre." she says in a letter to Councillor Gurmail Lal of the Adult Social Care committee on Hounslow Council.
She added that no viable alternatives had been found, despite assurances from the Council.
The Council has said that it needs to save £60 million by 2015 due to government cutbacks. The social services cuts are due to save £1.6 million a year .
Chiswick councillor John Todd ( Conservative), who has campaigned against closure, has claimed the Council could use a £2.2 million VAT repayment this year to help keep the centre open.
"Decent elder citizens of Chiswick have become pawns in a tawdry political game" he said.
"They and their devoted carers are being put through continued stress and uncertainty"
Replying to allegations from carers that transport and the provision of hot meals would be halted before the closure of the Centre, a statement from Hounslow Council said;
“The provision of our transport buses will continue to the 28th October for Mainstream Residents. Residents requiring transport to attend the day Centre on 31 st October will be supported to arrange other means of transport which could include taxis.
“Hot meals are provided on a daily basis and will continue to be available until the Centre closes on the 31 October 11.
“All service users have had a Resident Led Review and those living with the experience of dementia have been offered a place at Heston Day Centre. Personal Budgets have been offered to everyone eligible to receive one. Residents who are more independent have discussed what they can do, many already attend a variety of other activities.”
October 14, 2011