Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/885/22062
Gateshead carers oppose respite centre closures
Elaine Brunskill, Socialist Part Northern region
For years Gateshead's Labour councillors have boasted they would always protect frontline services for the most vulnerable. That claim is now being shredded as the council looks to close or privatise the Marquis Way and Blaydon Lodge respite centres for disabled adults.
Outside Gateshead Civic Centre, carers of disabled adults, including parents and grandparents, made a phenomenal amount of noise at the protest to save these services. Clerical staff were twitching at office blinds to see what was going on. After about half an hour we were invited inside so council workers could hear our views.
The officers listened intently as carers gave numerous examples of their concerns over the council's plans. Parents described bad experiences in the past with private respite provision, largely due to understaffing and high turnover.
In contrast, Blaydon Lodge and Marquis Way were described as "amazing and unique facilities". The same with Grove House, the equivalent children's centre, which is also under threat. It was clear that the staff at these centres are very highly regarded.
These centres mean that for one or two days a month, carers can have time off. When asked what they do with this time nearly all of them replied "catch up with sleep!"
During the course of the meeting, carers highlighted the report in the last Socialist - in Stoke-on-Trent, Tories and independents are using council reserves to fund services. If the Tories can do it, why can't Labour?
On the protest, there was anger that Gateshead Council has recently spent £45,000 revamping the offices of council leader Mick Henry and his cabinet. The feeling was that services for disabled people were more important than swanky offices for bosses.
In The Socialist 20 January 2016:
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