A bombshell has dropped this week with the revelation West Sussex County Council is to close its social services day centre in Midhurst.
It was announced to the town council by the county councillor for Midhurst, Nola Hendon.
She said not only would the county not be moving day-care services into the proposed new 8m Grange Centre, but the current provision, which is within the existing Grange and would shut down 'when the bulldozers moved in', would not be replaced anywhere in the area.
Council members were not only alarmed at the implications for the new Grange without the significant contribution of a day centre, but shocked at the plan to pull the plug completely.
The day centre caters for people across the whole of the Midhurst and Petworth area, with users being transported by county council minibuses.
Cllr Hendon said, instead, it was proposed each eligible day-centre user would be assessed on their needs and would be given a budget to buy their own care.
She said the closure decision was based on figures which showed numbers using the facility were dwindling and it was no longer viable.
The town council immediately authorised a letter to be fired off to Richard Perry, WSCC's director for policy and partnerships, expressing its 'considerable alarm'.
The letter said closure of day-care services would not only have an adverse effect on the new Grange because rooms planned to be shared between day centre and community use would presumably no longer be provided in the new building, but because such a valuable service would be lost.
Many users were elderly and lived alone, and welcomed their visits to the centre where they met other people.
In addition, carers would lose precious hours of rest and relaxation if their dependent relatives were unable to go to a day centre, the letter said.
Council member Wyn Passmore was among the most vehement protesters.
She claimed the day-centre numbers were dwindling because, from what she had been told by users, sessions had been restricted.
Mrs Passmore later told the Observer: "Instead of four sessions a week, they have been told they can have only two, some only one, so no wonder the numbers have dropped.
"The centre has been a lifeline for some people. Without it, they will just have carers coming in twice a day and that will be the only people they see."
Mrs Passmore added: "The new Grange is going to be useless without a day centre. I am 71 now and I am not looking forward to getting much older in Midhurst."
Cllr Hendon is now seeking evidence the use of the centre is declining. She said: "I know times change but back in 2006 when I was using the day centre for my late father, it was heaving with people."
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