The Socialist 1 November 2003
Join The Protests
Victory For Gorse Hall Campaigners
Tameside council backs down over day centre closure
TAMESIDE COUNCIL'S decision to discontinue the service for high dependency elderly people at Gorse Hall day centre, Stalybridge, was taken over 12 months ago without consulting with service users or the consultation groups which the council had set up.
The council wanted Gorse Hall to become a luncheon club, offering no help with personal care and staffed by Age Concern volunteers. The people currently using the centre were being transferred to the private sector and I was determined to make them regret this blatant privatisation. Also I'm one of 12 carers who volunteer time to attend meetings with Tameside council so they can consult with us on carers' issues.
We were never consulted on Gorse Hall. When I broached the subject at the next Joint Strategy meeting a senior Social Services manager said it's not on the agenda so we're not discussing it. I stood my ground but they didn't like it. They sent a letter to every member of the carers' council about my 'behaviour'.
During National Carers' Week the council held a big event at the Town Hall, with speakers from the council telling us what THEY had done for carers in Tameside.
I demonstrated outside with the "friends of Gorse Hall" before the meeting. Two of the Gorse Hall people voiced their disgust at the way the council had treated the elderly of Gorse Hall. Tony Booth had come as my guest and a television crew had filmed us outside, which didn't make me any more friends within the council.
The letter also brought up this "episode", apparently my be-haviour was becoming a concern. In fact my behaviour became an agenda item at the next carers' council meeting. They tried to turn my colleagues against me but failed. I am still not allowed to bring up Gorse Hall! But I still do!
I printed a petition on my PC and passed it around the people of Gorse Hall. The "friends of Gorse Hall" became very active: we all collected hundreds of signatures. We demonstrated and protested at every opportunity. We went to district assemblies, wrote letters and even enrolled a human rights lawyer.
The council played a dirty game, they had closed meetings at the centre with the elderly disabled people aged between 65-92 and tried to pick them off one by one. But the elderly people stood their ground.
Some needed to go to the toilet but the staff had been sent out of the room, some elderly ladies were crying but they were ignored. The staff voiced their concerns at leaving the people they cared for, they were very angry and some refused to leave the room but they were threatened with disciplinary procedures. The union was nowhere to be seen.
The council have now backed down and have decided to let the high dependency elderly disabled day care users stay until the end of their days. But no more high dependency people will be referred to Gorse Hall. This service will be discontinued. It's a shame that no more people will experience the fantastic care given at Gorse Hall.
The staff are the cream of the crop and in an ageing population we should be building more day care centres exactly like this one. It's a fantastic place, if a 92 year-old disabled woman is willing to fight for it then so should we!
I have been thanked again and again for what I've done for them, but the phone call I received recently will stay in my mind forever. It was from Mrs Holden, whose husband attends Gorse Hall. She said: "If you hadn't motivated us to fight back we wouldn't have stood up to the council. I just wanted to say thank you".
We all need to get motivated and get behind the grass root campaigns in our local areas. Often people want to fight back but don't know how or think it won't do any good.
We need to show them that we have won, and can win again! I won because I had the Socialist Party behind me and the Manchester comrades at my side.
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