Consultation into closure of day centre begins

A Dudley mental heath day centre cited as ‘not fit for purpose’ could be forced to close in a new consultation which started this week, it has been revealed.

Councillor Qadar Zada and protestors at Woodside Day Centre, Dudley, in 2011
Councillor Qadar Zada and protestors at Woodside Day Centre, Dudley, in 2011

Woodside Day Centre, in Holly Hall, was originally set to shut in 2011 but new plans – described as a shock and a ‘disgrace’ – were revealed last month.

But Councillor Nicolas Barlow, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said that no decision had yet been made.

It comes as the council has mooted the idea of creating a borough-wide hub – called ‘Infusion’ – to be part of wider preventive services within adult social care in Dudley.

He said: “Consultation is starting this week and will run through October. As pressed upon by my colleague, it’s being called into the health and adult social care scrutiny committee on October 20.

“No decision has been made. We are looking at services in a more community based setting. The building is not fit for purpose. This has already been referenced in cabinet and needs a significant amount of investment.

“None of us on either side want to close or cease the service, and what I’m looking at is the re-provision of the service in a more community setting. Further questions can be asked at the scrutiny committee.”

But the move has been criticised by Labour as “very under hand” which argues mental health services are needed for Dudley while the ongoing after-effects of the pandemic continue.

Councillor Qadar Zada, leader of the opposition, said: “I was delighted to hear the leader of the council suggest innovation was at the heart of [mental health services], and I thought he might want to explain this new innovation that’s been reported, which is the closure of Woodside Day Centre.

“Up to 212 people access this vital service every single week. And can I say out of those 212 attendances, it is dispersed quite proportionately across every single ward in this borough.”

Councillor Zada quipped that the council has spent a grant of up to £120,000 on ‘fake grass’ to brighten Dudley town centre, rather than mental health services, which he described as a “missed opportunity”.

Councillor Barlow replied: “I know where I’d rather put the money, and that is in mental health services. I don’t agree with plastic grass in any shape or form.

“Certainly, we do need funding in mental health services and adult social care and we will ensure those discussions will take place.”

Woodside Day Centre, in Holly Hall, services adults from the age of 18 years onwards with mental health problems, and provides support and activities to help rebuild the lives of vulnerable people.

It was set to shut in 2011 after Dudley Council said the building was in a ‘poor condition’ and had a string of structural problems.

Dudley Council said it would be ‘too costly’ to bring the day centre up to modern standards as the entire central heating system has to be replaced.

But council chiefs retracted their statement in 2012, and said they will keep the facility open and instead carry out improvement works at the site.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on September 23, Councillor Pete Lowe, shadow cabinet member for health and social care said: “This cabinet paper is one of the worst documents I have ever seen presented to a council meeting.

“Nowhere in this paper does it state that they intend to close mental health services in Dudley located at Woodside Day Centre, yet this is exactly what they propose to do.

“To make such proposals, at a time when we require more and better mental health provision, is an absolute disgrace.

“Mark my words, we are entering a crisis with regard to mental health provision as a direct result of the failure of [Conservative] policies at both national and local level.”

As of October 7, 170 individuals across Dudley’s borough access the day centre on a regular basis.

This includes 24 users at St James’ ward, 19 at Netheron, Woodside, and St Andrews, and 16 at Brockmoor and Pensnett.

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