‘Leighton Buzzard Day Centre suspension must end’ say families who fear for its future
'The one thing people have been clutching on to is coming back to the day centre and seeing their friends'
Families are crying out for Central Bedfordshire Council to reopen activities at Leighton Buzzard Day Centre, as rumours begin to circulate about its future.
The Duncombe Drive site caters for the elderly and residents with learning disabilities, but closed last March due to Covid-19.
The council has since provided outreach services (home visits) for clients, but families are desperate for the council to reopen the centre now that most of the elderly and vulnerable have had their two vaccinations.
CBC has reopened two of the four day centres it operates in the district, but says operations at Leighton Buzzard remain suspended and for now is offering users most in need of support a place at an alternative day centre.
The LBO approached CBC, who wished to make it clear that the day centre was not closing and that a consultation on its future - which was postponed in 2020 - would be relaunching.
On the importance of restarting activities, one resident, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed: "It's been awful for the elderly. Some of them haven't been out of their doors for over a year. The one thing people have been clutching on to is coming back to the day centre and seeing their friends. It's just so sad."
On the CBC website, it states that prior to the pandemic, the council began the process of "developing the future day offer for older people and adults with disabilities" and had launched a consultation.
The website states: "Having looked at a number of options for the future of the centre, our preferred option at this time is to relocate the current service for existing customers to community space at the new care home, which is being built on the former police station site at Hockliffe Road in Leighton Buzzard. We would then close Leighton Buzzard Day Centre.
"The new care home development is still some way off and it is expected to be two to three years until it is ready for opening. If the preferred option is agreed, then Leighton Buzzard Day Centre for Older People would continue to operate as normal until nearer the time.
"As well as the older people who attend Leighton Buzzard Day Centre, a Community Opportunities Group (COG) for customers with learning disabilities is based at the centre three days a week. The centre is a ‘touch down’ base for the group and it spends a lot of time out in the community.
"If the day centre were to close, an alternative ‘touch down’ base would be required for COG. During the consultation period, we will continue to work with COG customers to identify what they like to do and where they could run activities from if the preferred option is approved. We're committed to keeping COG running from Leighton Buzzard in bases easily accessible to other community services."
However, while the consultation is paused, Leighton-Linslade families are still desperate for the Duncombe Drive day centre to reopen, with the elderly missing activities such as flower arranging, bingo, quizzes, dominoes, armchair workouts and more.
The resident added: "But most of all, they are missing the social contact, seeing their friends."
The activities were available to elderly residents living alone in self-catered accommodation, or living with their families and carers. Some of the residents have dementia or Alzheimer's, and the centre also provided a much-needed respite opportunity for carers.
Cllr Carole Hegley, Executive Member for Adult Social care at CBC, said: “In Spring 2020, we started a consultation to explore options for the future of the Leighton Buzzard Day Centre, as we hope to introduce an improved day service offering. However the consultation was paused as a result of the pandemic. We will contact all our Leighton Buzzard Day Centre customers before resuming the consultation, and no decision on the future of the day centre will be made until after it has concluded.
“In addition when restrictions were put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus, we suspended the operation of our adult day centres except for customers in specific circumstances. In relation to older people, we are now in a position to lift the suspension on two of our four day centres to those who most need support away from their homes, but our service in Leighton Buzzard remains suspended.
“We are in the process of contacting all customers of the Leighton Buzzard Day Centre to discuss their circumstances. Those who most need support away from their home will be offered a place at an alternative day centre and we will continue to offer other support to those who aren’t able to return in person.
"This includes outreach support (day centre staff supporting people at home), using community resources to provide customers with the opportunity to get out and about again and increase social contact, and our virtual day service. We’re keeping this under review and we remain cautious in light of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.”