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Dudley day centre users fear potential closure

Wood-crafters who use a day centre attended a committee meeting in Dudley council to air their grievances at the potential closure of the building.

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Councillor Zada and Councillor Taylor with local residents who use Woodside at the health and social care committee meeting held on October 20

More than 20 people who use Woodside Day Centre were invited to attend the health and adult social care committee meeting, held on October 20, to discuss mental health in Dudley's community.

Local people who access the services at Woodside day centre – including its much loved wood-crafting facilities – argue the building has purposefully been left in such a derelict state the council will have no choice but to close it.

Photographs note a damaged roof, chimney stack, and water damage.

Robyn Smith, from Brierley Hill, and a user of Woodside day centre, said: "We want to be in a safe, quiet place, not in a cafe where the council are expecting to put us, where it is noisy, and all we can do is have a chat and coffee, which is not exactly the same as doing our wood-crafting.

"The cafe, Queen's Cross, that they want to move us to, has nothing to do with mental health services. It has not got the facilities to support us."

Ms Smith, who also works as a glass artist, said she hoped the facility could be brought under the wood-crafters' management as a community asset trust. She added: "It's the only way, realistically, the building can be saved."

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Pete Lowe who represents Lye and Stourbridge, said: "It is a disgrace that we find ourselves in a situation where residents have not been able to access services since the coronavirus outbreak.

"The council should be a safety net for these residents – but they are failing them here."

Councillor Lowe, who previously worked as a charge nurse for Dudley Group of Hospitals, said the community-based care potentially being offered by the Conservative-led council will only lead to "more isolation" for residents.

He said: "When I visited Woodside myself, it was emotional listening to the residents' stories. We can't have community-based isolation because of this new outreach model proposed by the council.

"This is not about the bricks and mortar of Woodside itself, but access to the provisions the building holds.

"This is the only building in the whole of Dudley, for example, that provides wood-crafting services. We need appropriate investment and services so that people are looked after."

According to the previous cabinet meeting, held on September 23, Woodside day centre requires more than £1m capital investment to make it safe due to deficiencies in the roof and chimney stack.

The cabinet report noted the heating system at Woodside day centre was "not fit for purpose" and the capital required would not create a modern facility, but one that "merely met" Health and Safety requirements.

Several locations have been considered to deliver Woodside's services, including Queen's Cross centre – just one mile away – Brett Young day centre in Halesowen, and the addition of three community rooms based in Stourbridge, Halesowen and Coseley.

The consultation is part of a wider effort by Dudley council to create a borough-wide community hub – called 'Infusion' – to be part of wider preventive services within adult social care in Dudley.

Woodside day centre. Photo: Rhi Storer

Councillor Nicholas Barlow, who represents Wollaston and Stourbridge Town and is cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: "I have acknowledged, alongside Matt Bowsher [chief officer for adult social care] that there is a mental health crisis not just in Dudley but across the whole country.

"That is why I have wrote [sic] a letter to the secretary of state, Savid Javid MP, with Councillor Lowe, and his predecessors, for fair funding – particularly with adult social care – in our region.

Councillor Barlow said utilising funds already available, rather than requesting more money from central government, to prioritise social care is key.

He said: "It's not just about funding, it's about utilising the funds we already have, and how to make it the most effective. If we managed to get more funding from central government, that would be great. But at the moment we have to concentrate on our budget and what we can feasibly afford."

While Councillor Barlow agreed, and said the building was in "an appalling state", he argued the building was no longer fit for purpose.

He said: "I was horrified to learn that the building is in such disrepair, especially after Councillor [Matt] Rogers [who represents Wordsley] visited the premises.

"Woodside day centre is an old building, that we think is no longer suitable to provide community services and I'm pleased we're able to consider alternative locations as part of this work – such as Queen's Cross.

"We want to make sure all people can travel to the location, we don't want people travelling too far to access the services.

"I must stress that no decision about the future of Woodside day centre or how services will be delivered moving forward will be taken before this consultation is complete.

"I understand that this is quite an emotive subject. The last thing I want to do is upset people.

"We want to make sure all voices across Dudley are heard with regards to the consultation, not just for Woodside in particular, but all adult social care services in our borough."

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 – 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.

The consultation closes at 5pm on November 21. Visit

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