Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Three key community services are facing axe in Shantallow, says MLA

Shantallow residents will suffer a triple blow as three community services face the axe, according to a Foyle MLA.

Nursing unit Slievemore House is due to close by the end of May, while the Community Benefits Office at Northside will close on April 2.

The Woodlands Speech and Language Unit has also been threatened with closure at the end of this academic year.

Londonderry MLA Colum Eastwood said that there is huge anxiety at the closure of the facilities, which care for some of the most vulnerable sections of society.

“The proposed removal of these services, in such a short window of time, has caused alarm that much needed services in this area are being systematically stripped away,” he said.

Slievemore Nursing Unit is due to close after an inspection declared it did not meet required nursing home standards.

The six remaining patients at the 18-bed facility will be relocated to other care facilities.

The 31 staff members will be offered alternative employment at other trust facilities.

Mr Eastwood said that the relatives of Slievemore dementia residents are distraught at the decision.

“Slievemore staff do tremendous work. This is a disease that needs a very particular type of care,” he said.

“It is a very obvious case where the Government should prove it is about looking after the most vulnerable, not about cost-cutting. I’m calling on the Western trust and Minister Edwin Poots to step in and chang this decision.”

Mr Eastwood said that rising dementia rates meant that support services should be increased rather than removed.

A trust spokesman said it was unable to answer specific questions at this time.

The Northside Community Benefits Office — which provides advice to thousands — is another service facing closure.

Mr Eastwood, who attended the protest against the service withdrawal, said local residents are very angry.

“Welfare reform is coming down the line and it is a very worrying time for people on benefits,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Social Development said: “The services currently being provided at these offices are readily available from Jobs and Benefits Offices or via enhanced telephony services which will enable claimants to contact the Social Security Agency directly from their homes without the need to travel to their Jobs Office.”

The third service under threat is the Woodlands Speech and Language Unit.

The Western Education and Library Board (WELB) had proposed that the facility should be relocated to mainstream primary schools. Education Minister John O’Dowd has postponed the decision to close the unit.

A WELB spokesman said: “Proposals to relocate and expand specialist speech and language provision across the north west area are subject to a public consultation which is ongoing until March 24 2013, after which the minister will make a final decision.”

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