Talks over plan to shut care centre

CONSULTATION has begun over the planned closure of a “flagship” elderly care centre in Wombwell.

More than 70 employees at Highfield Grange could lose their jobs in the move, that has been scheduled for March 2012 unless £544,000 can be found to keep the facility running.

Along with the intermediate care the centre provides to elderly people, there is a five day a week daycare hub run by Age Concern that is a lifeline to most of those who use it.

Highfield Grange is run jointly by Barnsley Council and NHS Barnsley, but the NHS has indicated it will not continue to contribute 50 per cent of the budget.

The resulting funding gap led to the council making the decision to shut the centre down, to release around £700,000 in social care funding. It is not clear where the saved cash would be re-directed.

The Barnsley branch of the GMB union has condemned the move, and is linking with other unions in a bid to campaign to try to keep the valued facility open.

Highfield Grange has 39 ‘intermediate care’ beds and is run by 34 council workers and 38 NHS staff. It is possible the latter would be redeployed, but that option is unlikely to exist for redundant council staff.

Wombwell Coun Dick Wraith said: “This is really sad news as the centre was our flagship for the area when it was built, and it hosts an excellent daycare service run by Age Concern.

“It is the latest of Wombwell’s assets that looks set to be lost to us, and is such a shame.”

NHS Barnsley refused to provide a comment about the situation.The consultation period will run for 30 days.