Midhurst day-care centre to fill gap

It’s all ready to roll! A community-led day-care centre WILL open at the Grange Centre at Midhurst when West Sussex County Council withdraws its service at the end of next month.

The Rother Valley Voluntary Community Care Association, formed in the wake of a packed public meeting to protest at the county decision, will take over the present day-centre premises, commissioning the charity Age UK to run the service.

It has negotiated an agreement with the county council to rent the space and the equipment for a ‘reasonable’ sum at least until the end of the financial year next April.

An upbeat Colin Hughes, who has led the initiative to save a day-care service in Midhurst, declared: “It’s all ready to roll and deliver.”

He told the Observer: “We need lots of day centre members to come back and lots of volunteers to help. The contract between the Rother Valley group and the county council was signed last week, which opened the way for us to start delivering services in November.

“We have commissioned Age UK West Sussex to organise the new service. A lunch club will be running four days a week and some of the old favourite activities and services will be available. A new look and a fresh approach will provide a whole new lease of life to the day club in Midhurst.”

The county is giving the group £50,000 a year for the next three years to help fund the service. Transport is to be provided where possible.

Mr Hughes said some charges would be necessary as the level of support which was once available will no longer be there.

“It is planned a good-quality lunch will cost £4.50 and the transport will be £2 a journey,” he said.

Age UK will be seeking two part-time co-ordinators, a mini-bus driver and a cook.

On all sides, however, there is concern the change-over may not be able to be ‘seamless’, as Mr Hughes put it, because day-centre numbers have dwindled to just a handful.

Margaret Guest, who is also part of the Rother group, told the town council that day-care and lunch club members were virtually all gone from the Grange day centre.

Some had been told they were no longer eligible for the lunch, some that they were no longer eligible for day-care, and others were no longer able to use the transport.

Numbers had dropped from about 50 to about six, she claimed.

Mr Hughes said tracing past members from Midhurst, Petworth and surrounding rural communities, to assure them the new service was available to them, was going to be a priority.

He wanted to restore the day club as ‘a caring place to meet for many who are in need of just getting out and being with friends’.

And he added: “This is a community project and there is plenty of opportunity for the wider community to help either in the provision of activities, running the centre or driving and collecting members.”

Anyone interested in helping this venture can leave their name and contact details at the Grange Leisure Centre reception office or call town council clerk Joan Hursthouse on 01730 816953, email midhursttc@btconnect.com