‘Most vulnerable hit hardest by cuts’

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PLANS to close three dementia care homes in Sheffield were met with disbelief and anger from stunned carers and families.

Rita Brookes, who helped defeat last year’s plans to close Woodland View and Birch Avenue, said she could not believe more closures are on the cards.

The 58-year-old, whose aunt suffers from severe dementia and is still being treated in Woodland View, said: “They are coming up with the same arguments as they did last year - that this care could be done cheaper in essentially private hands.

“But we believe dementia care does not belong in the private sector.

“It is a disease that should be treated by the state.”

She added: “Last year we won that argument, we proved them wrong and we kept the centres open.

“But it took a very professional campaign.”

Jacqui Milner, 68, secretary of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, said: “Dementia is a dreadful, dreadful illness.

“People think it’s just about memory loss but it is much more than that. It doesn’t affect just you - it affects your entire family and everyone around you.

“After all the other cuts that have hit elderly people, it seems the most vulnerable people in this city who are being hit the hardest.”

Charlie Carruth, Sheffield organiser for health workers in the Unison trade union, said closing the centres would be ‘catastrophic’.

“We will fight on all fronts to stop this happening,” he said. “These centres have a huge job, not just in providing residential care, but in a large network of community provision as well.

“The report says these centres are not ‘fit for purpose’ but surely the right thing to do is to put money into improving them, not shifting the service to a different provider.”

And Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed criticised the council for burying the proposal deep in its budget report.

“Thanks to The Star at least people now know the truth,” he said.

“But they should have been told their centres faced the chop weeks ago.

“It’s shocking that Labour councillors have put all three dementia centres under threat of closure without any prior notice or warning.

“The fact they sneaked the decision through, even though they have been working on their budget and must have known about the issue for months, shows a total disregard for dementia service users and their families.

“We are calling on the leader of the council to apologise and launch an investigation to find out how this unacceptable situation was allowed to happen.”

A spokesman for Age UK said: “Residents of care homes are often very frail, and being forced to move can place them at risk.

“Where it is necessary to close a care home, every effort must be made to ensure all residents find suitable alternative accommodation and are assisted to move with the minimum risk to their safety.”