Cuts to Sheffield day centre places ‘will leave elderly isolated’

Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall
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A day centre user says she and other elderly people will be left with nothing once Sheffield Council cuts the funding for their places.

The city council’s contract with Age UK Sheffield to provide day centre places for older people at Centre in the Park in Norfolk Heritage Park, Arbourthorne, ends this month.

As a result, the charity will no longer be able to offer the 13 places currently covered by the contract. People on using those places will instead have to pay £26 for half a day or £48 for a full day. Seven people currently pay to attend.

Joyce Milnes, 73, from Woodhouse Mill, uses the centre every Monday. For her, like most other users, it is one of the only times she leaves the house all week.

“It’s not just a lunch club,” she said. “It’s a day out where I can socialise. We have been together so long that we are family.”

Joyce, who was full of praise for the Age UK Sheffield staff, said the council-funded users had pleaded for a change of heart, but with no luck.

“There’s nothing we can do. We will be left with nothing to look forward to,” she said.

The council’s cabinet member for health and independent living Mary Lea said: “We decided not to renew the contract because, despite the best efforts of Age UK, the service has continued to attract very few people. There are just 13 people on average now being supported at a cost of nearly £30,000 a year.

“We will not be cutting this funding and it will be re-invested into services that are able to reach more older people. To be clear: this is not a cost savings exercise – it’s about using the limited amount of funding we have to reach as many people as possible.”

Coun Lea added: “We know this is unsettling for the people who use the centre, and their families, and we are sorry for any upset caused. We have offered to support Age UK in finding alternative services and our community support workers are also available to meet people, at the centre or at home, to discuss this directly with them.

“There is a lot available for older people including lunch clubs, knit and natter, art groups and befriending services – it all depends on someone’s interests, which is why support is being offered to affected people individually.”

Age UK Sheffield chief executive Steve Chu added: “It is disappointing. We appreciate the council is in a difficult position with the cuts they have had and we appreciate the funding that the council does continue to give to us.

“We can only deliver services that we are funded to provide. We are very sorry and we are working with customers that are affected to see what we can do.”