Rousing but tearful farewell for Shipdham Day Centre

Richard ParrThey were giving it their all down at the Thomas Bullock Day Centre in Shipdham.Wearing their Union bowlers and waving Union flags, they were led in rousing choruses of Wish Me Luck As You Wish Me Goodbye.Richard Parr

They were giving it their all down at the Thomas Bullock Day Centre in Shipdham.

Wearing their Union bowlers and waving Union flags, they were led in rousing choruses of Wish Me Luck As You Wish Me Goodbye.

But the patriotic gusto masked tears and sadness for the elderly day centre members who were meeting together for companionship and a hot lunch for the final time as they become the latest victims of county council cut-backs. Government funding arrangements are changing with introduction of personal budgets in place of financial support for day care centres.

A raft of such centres across Norfolk are closing, with many, including Mattishall and Wells day centres marking their final day this week, as they reach the deadline for their funding to be withdrawn leaving them unable to continue.

There are 67 day centres which will continue to be funded by Norfolk county council and 20 where funding is to be withdrawn.

The consultation period on the proposed closure of the Essex Rooms, Silver Rooms and Hempnall Mill - the only three buildings of the 15 in-house day services proposed for closure - ended on March 8. Feedback is now awaited and there is to be a meeting with key stakeholders and partners to update on the results. This will go to the next adult social services scrutiny and overview panel on May 11.

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Many fear that the loss of the social contact and being forced to return to isolation in rural villages, will have a dramatic impact on the old folk's quality of life.

But all that was temporarily forgotten for a short time at Shipdham on Tuesday as nostalgia music duo Chrissie and John Drury's Timescape entertained with songs from the war years, including Roll Out the Barrel, You Are My Sunshine and many more.

It was a bitter sweet day for centre manager Sharron Arnott who said that there were thanks, treats and tears for everyone who had contributed towards the success of the centre during its 27-year history.

'It has been very difficult, but we have been trying to carry on and keep the members' spirits up. There have been tears and hugs today as past and present volunteers and members have come together to mark the end of an era in Shipdham. Over the years for many of our elderly members coming along to the centre has been a vital social lifeline and the only opportunity they have to enjoy company and a hot lunch,' said Mrs Arnott.

It was a particularly sad day for 92-year-old Phyllis Warner, a centre member for more than seven years. Before becoming a member, Phyllis used to play the piano for the afternoon's entertainment. She was the church organist at the village church for 20 years.

'I will really miss coming along here for three days each week because we are all friends and I love chatting to the other members,' said Phyllis as she wiped a tear from her eye.

Centre Trustees chairman John Doel also spoke of his sadness that the Centre was closing after 27 years.

'One unique advantage that our centre had was its close association with the Thomas Bullock Junior school. Every day the centre was open gave close interaction with the children. When Year 6 came to study world war two the members were happy to give their personal recollections of the period, so bringing history to life,' said Mr Doel.

He added: 'All this has now come to an end and the trustees wish to thank the many people who over the past 27 tears helped to give pleasure to the members who have shown they are a very important part of our society'.