Socialist Worker

Service users fight Labour council's plans to close their adult day care centre

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2592

Protesting against the closure of the Fairway Centre in Birmingham

Protesting against the closure of the Fairway Centre in Birmingham (Pic: Alistair Wingate)

Service users and their families are fighting to save their vital adult day care centre from the brutal cuts of Birmingham council.

The Fairway day centre in the Kings Norton area of Birmingham is facing closure after the Labour council said they didn’t have the money to run it.

The cuts are not only another blow to social care, but threaten to tear apart a community. The council say they would need to invest £500,000 in building repairs, but campaigners say much less is needed to keep the service running.

Some of the 70 service users have been visiting The Fairway for 40 years, and it is their primary source of social contact. Now service users, their families and carers are fighting to save it.

The council said last September that The Fairway would shut—but a determined campaign has got them reconsidering.

Save The Fairway chair Wendy Collymore’s dad lives with dementia and visits Fairway three days a week.  She explained that the cuts are “cruel” and that The Fairway is “absolutely essential”.

“He’s been going there for four years and now he’s settled in. If it shuts he could go to the Harborne day centre, but the council are already planning to shut that in 2020,” She told Socialist Worker.

The group say that service users, staff and families were never told about the closure before a letter in September 2017. They are calling for a full, legal and transparent consultation before any decision is made.

Wendy is her dad’s primary carer, and says the high quality of the care at The Fairway brings her peace of mind. 

“Dad going there is such a relief,” she said. “I know he is looked after in an environment where he’s happy, safe and doesn’t get agitated.”

But Save The Fairway campaigners say that ten long term workers have moved to other centres since the news of the potential closure. So the centre is now staffed by agency workers or people who are unfamiliar with the specific needs of service users.

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Dave has been visiting the Fairway for three years and said it “revitalised” him after a stroke and a seizure which meant the loss of the remainder his sight.

“It’s given me so much more confidence,” he told Socialist Worker. “When I started going I was at an all time low, and it was just brilliant to have people around me talking, and not have to face four walls at home.”

Dave said The Fairway “gives me something to live for” and would be deeply missed if it were closed.

The uncertainty of the future of The Fairway has already led to changes in the service. Dave described how service users used to take trips out together to the gym, and to eat meals together.

But that now doesn’t happen because the member of staff who organised it has moved on.

Service users face an uncertain future, as some may be moved to other day centres and others may have to take on carers in their own homes. But Dave said that would not replace the sense of community that The Fairway gives him.

He said life without the centre would be “very lonely.” And the effects were already being felt, as Dave described how “a lot of people are suffering from mental health problems because of the uncertainty.”

Campaigners are frustrated at being treated this way by a Labour council. Dave has been a Labour Party member for 24 years, and said he had been “badly let down.

“I have a problem with people being targeted in this way. Disabled people should be at the top of the payment list not the cuts list.”

Wendy echoed his frustration. “I’ve been voting since I was 18, and I’ve always encouraged people to vote,” she said. “I’ll be loath to vote Labour again, if they don’t do something about the way they’re implementing the cuts.”

Save the Fairway Centre rally at the Birmingham council meeting. 9am 20 February. Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3DH. Follow the campaign at Save Fairway Day Centre from Closure on Facebook

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