Trust must do right thing and save our day centres
TOO often in society, vulnerable people with learning disabilities and mental health problems are invisible. It is vital that we all take the time to listen to the views of the users, carers and staff about future plans that affect them.
Unfortunately, the Belfast HSC Trust and Department of Health did not fully listen to users and families when it was proposed to close learning disability and mental health day centres in north and west Belfast.
It has been nothing short of inspirational to see users, caring family members and staff united in opposition and campaigning strenuously to stop the closure of day centres.
With the support of unions and political representatives, thousands of letters of opposition have been handed in and protests have been held at trust HQ and Stormont.
Users and family members have effectively demonstrated that local day centres provide an important social outlet. For users, they are "a rock in my life" and "home from home". For families, they are "essential respite".
Four months on from the close of the day centre consultation, it is disgraceful that the Belfast HSC Trust has still not made a final decision about the future of day centres.
This delay and uncertainty is causing enormous distress. It is time that the chief executive of Belfast HSC Trust called a halt and stated that the day centres are not to close.
As the late Scottish trade union activist Jimmy Reid said, the worth of a society should be judged, "not by the affluence of the strong, or the greedy, but by how it cared for the most defenceless sections of the community, the very young, the very old, the physically, or mentally, handicapped".
It is our moral and political obligation to show that people with learning disabilities and mental health issues do matter.
Save our day centres.
CLLR TIM ATTWOOD (SDLP)
Belfast City Council