Jon Dale speaking Photo Dave Gorton
Jon Dale speaking Photo Dave Gorton

Stand against care home closures

Sean Vickers, Chesterfield Socialist Party

Tory Derbyshire County Council is pushing ahead with its plans to close seven care homes. The vast majority of 500 respondents to the council’s consultation opposed the closures without building like-for-like replacements.

The council claims that in a survey “of clients supported by our adult care service, almost 70% said they did not want to go into a care home”. This isn’t surprising!

But care homes provide round-the-clock care, which will not be available with homecare. Service users will have to rely on a few hours a week specialist care, with the rest made up by unpaid family carers.

Previous win

A previous threat to shut the same seven homes was overturned in 2020. The Tories clearly recognised that to press ahead during those early months of the pandemic would have been political suicide.

But with Keir Starmer’s ineffective Labour offering no real electoral alternative in 2021, the Tories in Derbyshire increased their majority and reintroduced their plans.

The closures – a third of the council-run stock – threaten the jobs of 240 workers. 68 long-term residents now face the upset and danger of being physically moved to alternative accommodation. Campaigners are afraid some are too frail, and have called the decision a “death sentence”.

We are calling for all those involved or interested in fighting such cuts to consider standing as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates in next year’s local elections.

Build a movement to save day centres

Elaine Evans, Chesterfield Socialist Party

Derbyshire County Council is seeking to close eight day centres for adults with a learning disability or who are autistic. The Socialist Party has launched a petition and newsletter. These have been well received by concerned residents at our weekly campaign stalls in Chesterfield, Shirebrook and Bolsover.

The Tory council has used Covid as a shield to stop service users attending, and then claim there is no longer a demand for the centres! Many fear the remaining four day centres would also be under immediate threat of closure or privatisation should the council successfully close the first eight.

Public sector union Unison – which organises most of the staff – is organising public meetings to campaign against the closures. The first of these, in Chesterfield, heard from local campaigners how the centres provide users’ only real contact with the outside world.

Jon Dale brought solidarity greetings from the Socialist Party and Unite union. He warned the petition and the council’s consultation alone would not be enough to stop this. The council are to shut seven care homes despite a majority opposing closure in a consultation.

Jon described how Chatsworth Ward at Mansfield Community Hospital was saved from closure by a campaign involving staff, patients and their families, with huge community support that forced NHS directors to retreat.

Labour cuts

At the meeting, Jon welcomed statements from Labour, but said they needed to go further by committing to reopen all closed centres if they win control of the council in 2025.

It is not just Tory cuts we need to challenge. Labour councils have also cut jobs and services, in Derbyshire and throughout the country. A similar campaign to Chatsworth Ward, led by Unison, could give confidence to all those who would be affected if this vital service were to be lost. It would also empower communities to understand how they aren’t powerless in the face of such attacks.