Centre closure plans anger

Orion Centre Hailsham
Orion Centre Hailsham

The son of a dementia sufferer who regularly uses a day care centre in Hailsham earmarked for closure has said the people behind the decision have badly let down the older people of East Sussex.

Len Fisher spoke out after hearing of the plans to close The Orion Centre as part of a cost-cutting exercise were approved by East Sussex County Council’s cabinet following a review and public consultation earlier this year. His 90-year-old mother, Edith Fisher, attends the centre four times a week and Mr Fisher says it is a ‘critical element of her care package’.

In a letter to Councillor Bill Bentley, East Sussex County Council lead member for adult social care, he wrote, ‘Sadly I believe you and your cabinet colleagues have badly let down the older people of East Sussex, in particular the frail, elderly and mentally challenged users of ALL of the day centres, but specifically The Orion Centre’.

He said staff at the centre had been patient, caring and given his mother, an Eastbourne resident, another five years of quality life, adding, ‘I don’t suppose for one moment that you were briefed after the extremely emotional meeting at The Orion Centre, perhaps if some of the 23 users of the centre had been at the council’s cabinet meeting and elected members saw the fear, tears and total confusion in their eyes then they may have re-thought their strategy to just close a critical service for a financial saving’.

Alison Pratley’s dementia sufferer mum Irene Pratley also uses the centre. She said, “It gives a bit of respite for me and stimulation for mum. Referring to people with dementia, she added, “They need continuity and they get frightened very easily by change, this is a major concern.”

A ESCC spokesperson said between April and August 2013, average attendance rates at the Orion Centre were 33 per cent.

Keith Hinkley, ESCC director of adult social care and health, added, “We do understand the strength of feeling about the Orion Centre but we have no choice but to make changes to ensure we provide the best care we possibly can and have a system that is sustainable for the future.

“The reality is that we have to make savings of more than £27 million from our adult social care budget over the next three years and those savings have to come from somewhere.

“The Orion Centre will not close until alternative provision is available to its current users via the voluntary or community sector, and all users will be individually assessed to ensure they continue to receive the services they need.

“The changes we are making, while not easy decisions to take, mean people can continue to receive support and we can avoid making unnecessary cuts to services, which we would otherwise have had to do.”